Hearts Amok by Kevin Spenst


In language that twists together hobo slang and flights of troubadourish diction, Hearts Amok scrutinizes the history of the love sonnet in Surrey, England and simultaneously celebrates the tickings and tollings of one love-struck heart in Surrey, British Columbia. Examining the underpinnings of love, this book journeys from the Middle Ages to the present where Spenst dates his way through Vancouver to finally find the love of his life.

“Kevin Spenst. Isn’t he the one that screams a lot?” someone asked me at a reading. To which I smiled. At the time I’d recently attended a number of this prolific poet’s readings. And yes, at times, he screams his work. Invariably it’s the most accurate depiction of those pieces, the sincerest communication of experience – sound, articulation, emotion. Being a lover of well-executed sound poetry, I appreciate the pursuit.

My first visit with Kevin was as his guest on 100.5 FM Wax Poetic Radio. We swapped stories and laughed while I read a blend of verse and prose. It was, I believe, a good show. Evident that Kevin knows our city. Which I like. This familiarity – a clear sense of home, shines through in his latest work, Hearts Amok by Anvil Press. With a stack of engaging chapbooks under his authorial belt, I was eager to enjoy the newest full-length collection of his craft.

The launch, in the midst of a physically distanced world, took place via Zoom, a well-attended affair featuring a selection of Anvil’s latest releases. Of four featured readers, Spenst batted cleanup. Here’s a particular line of his that I like, from BEE’S KNEES TO A TILLANDSIA:

Life is a questionable sandwich from a lost / and found until I cough up an epiphany.

Prophetic, relatable and true. This poet offers engaging insight on seemingly every topic, from the profound to the mundane. Through it all sincerity, candor, and recollections of relationships, a time-capsule memoir in verse. This, from ANOTHER NUMBER OF FIRST DATES:

Other men vault themselves trophying a big / catch, conquering mountaintops, shirts asunder. / I post myself as a mime, cyclist poet, uncle to / ten adults, fool-hearted cataracted optimist.

Perhaps what I love most about Kevin’s work is his comfort in walking a well-balanced line of the grave and the absurd, a beautiful blend of intellect and play. This, from I LOVE YOU, I’M UNCOMFORTABLE, Love Poem #25:

When wet snow in tattered sheets / drapes day after day, down pours / my heart. A Rorschach inkblot of / snot freezes in a cold moment on / my cycle home. Here is an emblem / of my life.

With self-deprecating warmth and wit, poet Kevin Spenst once again delivers his best in Hearts Amok. I applaud my Vancouver friend for doing what he does, doing it consistently, and doing it well.


About the Author: Kevin Spenst, a Pushcart Prize nominee, is the author of Ignite, Jabbering with Bing Bong and over a dozen chapbooks. His work has won the Lush Triumphant Award for Poetry, been nominated for both the Alfred G. Bailey Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry, and has appeared in dozens of publications. He lives on the unceded Coast Salish territory (Vancouver) with the love of his life Shauna Kaendo.

  • Title: Hearts Amok: A Memoir in Verse
  • Author: Kevin Spenst
  • Publisher: Anvil Press, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781772141498
  • Pages: 127
  • Price: $18.00

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West Coast Editor/Poetry Reviewer at The Miramichi Reader | Website

Vancouver author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott is the national bestselling author of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga (WIBA Book Awards Finalist and ABF International Book Awards Finalist). His work is published in literary journals and anthologies in Canada, the US, UK, Europe, Asia and Australia and his column Bill Arnott’s Beat is a feature at New Reader Magazine, Canadian Authors Association, The Miramichi Reader, Federation of BC Writers, and League of Canadian Poets. Bill’s been awarded for prose, poetry, songwriting and performed at hundreds of events internationally. He’s a Director on numerous Boards, Writer-in-Residence, creator of Bill’s Artist Showcase, and for his eight-year Gone Viking trek has been awarded a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society. @billarnott_aps | https://billarnottaps.wordpress.com/

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