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“Heating the Outdoors” Review

“Heating the Outdoors” is the most recent collection of poems by Innu and Québécoise poet Marie-Andrée Gill. A graduate of the University of Quebec in Chicoutimi, Marie-Andrée uses this collection to tell the story of a young female reflecting on a past relationship and the ongoing internal strife she faces trying to relinquish her flame for him and the happiness he brought to her life.

The narrator begins the story by detailing her complex relationship with love and the idea behind the term “love.” She claims that time and time again she falls into this loop where she speaks words of “stale hope” into the ears of the lovers she holds dear and cherishes them like “a last drink of milk” just waiting to expire. To her, romance is a “scab torn off” and “regrown.” Such a description of companionship lends it the frail yet promising quality of reincarnation. Furthermore, broken hearts must decide whether they will be hesitant or open to the loves that will come and go from their lives.

The narrator describes her past lover as a “clump of blackened spruce that lights [her] gasoline-soaked heart.” With rhetoric like this, she shines light on her heart and its often tainted, forever-ignited state. In turn, her easily impressionable, receptive spirit perceives problematic signs as symbols of slight turbulence. The narrator compares this feeling of denial to running through a snow-laden forest without a coat and having snowy tree branches whip her across the face. Every step she takes deeper into the wilderness is garnished with hope and promise, and even though she faces the physical and emotional trauma of the obstacles right in front of her, she keeps running—hopefully and ignorantly so.

However, when her dreams begin to “lose their contours” and heartbreak begins to set like the dusk sun, her lamp and her soul’s impulse to survive pray “for a daybreak” to crack “between the lines” of a story that has long had its cover locked shut. This pattern of emotional negligence sets her heart at a value comparable to that of a measly “good bowl of macaroni and sausages.” These “pleated feelings” she tries desperately to “smooth out” never really disappear. Every article of clothing he once wore, every piece of household décor he once treasured, and every photograph of his smile bring back her dread in paralyzing waves. Nevertheless, it is hope that allows her to push through. The emotional wounds to which she plays doctor are “multicolored bruises” that she is now finally beginning to treasure. She begins to make an ally of the word “slowly” and begins to find peace in the conquest that lies at the end of the journey of gradual self-exploration.

And while there are times where she “[dreams] up all of the ways [she] might slip around [his] neck” and “wake up in [his] hands,” she knows that these fantasies must go nowhere, as she is no longer a wild, lustful child banking on codependence to lead her to internal salvation. She instead allows the beauty of nature and the truth in self-reflection to “let time tune its instrument accordingly.”

Overall, this collection of poems is a powerful, refreshingly honest ode to womanhood, love, loss, and introspection. There is a level of vulnerability in each line and a level of honesty within each stanza that readers interested in coming-of-age literature should, without a shadow of a doubt, enjoy.

By Olivia Cyrus

January 27, 2023

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