Ciara Shuttleworth's first collection of poems, Rabbit Heart, taps into the carnal energies of her forebears, poets like Whitman, whose "body electric" is channeled in "Electric Like Lightning" I want to feel electric, high voltage, my body / housing unharnessed megawatts equal to a single shard / of lightning"; and, if not lightning, being "soaked / by rain . . . so the electricity runs over my body," "Body as home." Or like Dickinson, in "Theory and Practice," where Shuttleworth writes "The waves are writing a love letter / in cursive, alluring," and "pull from the depths synonyms for love in their wire cages." Poem after poem, from Gypsy Rose Lee to the wreckage of ships and Norma Jean Baker, Shuttleworth's poetry takes you to surprising people, places, and states of heart. She writes longingly, "Your heart // beats slower than hers as she lies beside you / at night and tries to match / her breath to yours, wanting your hearts / to beat in one iambic rhythm," but, understand, the poet may also be uncompromising in her poetry, as in "Moving Day" "Call forth: wrecking balls, bulldozer . . . Bury what will not burn."
Reading Ciara Shuttleworth's Rabbit Heart, you might detect here and there a tang of Millay; or a certain incense that reminds you of Lynda Hull; then a pulse of Plath-like intensity, or a hint of Franz Wright. Comparisons like these will leap to mind, but Ciara Shuttleworth doesn't write like anyone except herself. Which is to say, with fierceness, resourcefulness, exactitude, and pure, sometimes unnerving, but also courageous, honesty. -Robert Wrigley