Irregular Heartbeats at the Park West

An illustration of a skull facing the side with the silhouette of a man encasing it.

Bold yet vulnerable poems that traverse family, friendship, grief, Americana, and the writer’s life.

With musical language and vivid imagery, Irregular Heartbeats at the Park West attunes us to the sheer wonder of being alive. Intimate reflections on family histories, hardship, and everyday life reveal the ways art and nature can lift us from grief and serve as lodestars in an increasingly uncertain world. Russell Brakefield’s poems span American landscapes and personal experience, dropping down in music venues and dark barrooms, back alleys and suburbs, brightly lit galleries and lonely graveyards. How do we manage the weight, one poem asks, of carrying all our histories inside us? The poet hunts for answers everywhere, seeking insights into the particulars of the natural world and the minutiae of everyday life. Inspired by an assemblage of Americana and a litany of literary landmarks—from spiritual epiphanies at the Hemingway house to a reckoning with privilege in Lucille Clifton’s Baltimore—Brakefield explores how poetry can be influenced, propped up, and contorted by the American canon. Drawing on a depth of emotion, wit, and reverence for nature, this striking new collection captures the beautiful and often poignant complexities of the human experience.