When the Heart Needs a Stunt Double
Poems by Diane DeCillis
Pages: 112 Size: 6x9
Who wouldn’t want a metaphorical stunt double to take the perilous fall that comes with the pain of loss or profound disappointment? The poems in When the Heart Needs a Stunt Double by Diane DeCillis consider resourceful ways in which we become our own stunt double and explore through a poet’s eyes the anatomy of the mind, body, and soul.
Although many of these poems investigate loss and heartbreak, this book is not about being a victim. It’s about how we not only survive our most challenging moments but how we thrive in spite of them. These are poems about all of the ways our hearts both help us and betray us during major life events: dealing with divorce, the death of a loved one, separation from those closest to you, or with the agonizing experience of memory loss. The speaker appreciatively observes "how hard the muscle has worked / lifting and lowering the weight of love and sorrow." DeCillis writes that loss can feel like your heart is limping "like a wounded animal / before you sink into the shelter of your own shadow." But with every loss in these poems comes rebirth—a beautiful, sensory-rich wildflower garden of new breaths and experiences. The character of the heart is depicted as a piece of human anatomy at the same time it’s portrayed as its own world; an entire planet. DeCillis personifies the mitral, aortic, and pulmonary valves, describing our bodies as blooming with vegetation, a recursive image of living things thriving inside living things.
When the Heart Needs a Stunt Double takes us on a journey of what it means to be fully human. It touches upon the gifts we find in humor, nature, art, food, and how we celebrate the beauty of our scars. These are love poems: to others, to the self, to the body. DeCillis makes it clear that wounds need attention and care, but that loss always strengthens us. This collection will be admired by poetry lovers of all kinds, and those who enjoy modern and corporeal love poems.
Diane DeCillis contains multitudes: paintings and hospital beds, and laughing, grieving voices. Her poems elucidate language itself, words in the act of being undressed—a mind in dialogue with a translator, a liar, and a lover. This remarkable volume carries ‘a weight that lifts you / and buries you at once.’
– Michael Lauchlan, author of Trumbull Ave. (Wayne State University Press, 2015)
From Lady Baltimore to the Girl from Ipanema in Detroit—from Alfred Hitchcock’s fear of eggs to Hokusai’s ‘Great Wave’ at a poetry reading—the subjects in When the Heart Needs a Stunt Double are far-reaching and original. Diane DeCillis weaves her unmistakable magic in poems that are fierce and intelligent. She embraces the breadth of the world and the depth of the sky in this brilliant collection.
– Linda Nemec Foster, author of The Blue Divide, Talking Diamonds, and Amber Necklace from Gdansk
Wise and witty, artful and fierce, these poems take us to the heart of life—its joys, its sorrows, and, yes, its marshmallow Peeps! On every page—‘as hunger migrates on massive wings’—DeCillis delights us, nourishes us. This book is a feast for the mind, the ear, the spirit.
– Christine Rhein, author of Wild Flight
Diane DeCillis’s latest collection, When the Heart Needs a Stunt Double, is that rare book that is both funny and momentous. Her lyrical evocations of people and places in Southeast Michigan are full of empathy, tenderness, and whimsical irony. DeCillis captures our humanity in all its moods—no small task.
– Cal Freeman, author of Fight Songs
When a vase breaks, the Japanese mend it with gold, which is called kintsugi, or precious scars, and that’s what Diane DeCillis is doing in this beautiful collection, taking the wounds of living and turning them on the wheel of her heart and mind. Damaged children mingle with Franz Liszt, Poe, Edvard Munch, and Pablo Neruda with ‘the crazed puma prowling in the hollow street of hunger.’ There is a plentitude in these pages that satisfies poetic appetite. Get ready to dig in.
– Barbara Hamby, author of Holoholo
Diane DeCillis is the rare poet for whom nothing is impossible. Her poems can find Neruda in the kitchen in one moment, and dive into a black hole the next, pivoting from humor to heartache with remarkable ease. This an electric collection, full of wit, wisdom, and depths of feeling.
– Matthew Olzmann, author of Contradictions in the Design
Diane DeCillis’s When the Heart Needs a Stunt Double celebrates great swaths of life. From the joys and difficulties of her Lebanese heritage to her Michigan home, loss is countered by wide-ranging passion: parsley and Peeps, Duchamp and Hiroshige, Joe Louis and Isaac Newton. Erudite but never stuffy, insatiable and generous, this voice is an invitation to a stunning banquet of joy, humor, and tenderness. A feast.
– Mary Jo Firth Gillett, author of Soluble Fish
I - LOVE!! - THIS - BOOK - OF - POETRY!! Too often, a book with a terrific title exhausts its terrific-ness in the title. In "When the Heart Needs a Stunt Double," the title poem in the collection, the author is just rolling up her sleeves. It's clear that Diane Decillis is in love with words and language. For poetry readers looking for variety without reading an anthology, this is it. I found her wide variety of poems to be (not simultaneously): familiar, tender, peculiar, clever, witty, smart, Detroit/Michigan-focused, international, and funny. I can't remember the last time I laughed truly out loud so much while reading a collection of poetry. Subjects range from family, love (of all kinds - especially romantic and culinary), Alfred Hitchcock, how to handle a fly as a pet, art, and more. I highly recommend this book!
– Beagle & Wolf Books & Bindery
The ruminative second book from Decillis (Strings Attached) weaves memory, imagery, and observation to understand the anatomy of heartbreak. "I have a habit of resisting love," Decillis writes. "I name it possibility and forget what that means—/ a habit of unearthing the past that taught me/ to get used to the leaving before the leaving." The book contains riveting details—of the natural world, paintings and poems, bodily organs, home shopping networks, planets—which take the form of autopsy files, centos, and dreams. Decillis’s voice is playful and humorous, even under the weight of personal history and inquiry. Among the many birds that appear in the book (ravens, orioles, wild geese), there is a poem about marshmallow peeps "bloomed... in the microwave," the speaker "roast[ing] them into gelatinous oneness." In these memorable poems, Decillis suggests that despite the hauntings of memory and grief, the tired muscle "lifting and lowering/ the weight of love and sorrow," there is wit, and even strange grace in "the gilded scar" that defines each human life.
– Publishers Weekly
Excerpt in Cleveland Review of Books (April 24, 2021)
Interview on Michigan Public Radio's Stateside (April 23, 2021)
Interview on A Little Too Quiet: The Ferndale Library Podcast (April 17, 2021)
Featured on Poets.org for National Poetry Month (April 1, 2021)
Included in Publisher Weekly's list of "Weathering the Times: Poetry 2021" (January 29, 2021)