Review of Palimpsest by Courtney Heidorn

Palimpsest cover
Courtney Heidorn
Bottlecap Press, 2024, 28 pages

Reviewed by Sara Ricci

Love Through the Sweetness of a Strawberry: A Review of Courtney Heidorn’s Palimpsest

The strawberry serves as a focal point in Courtney Heidorn’s new poetry collection, Palimpsest. From the first pages, the author translates the act of slicing the sweet fruit into pieces into a tender beginning of pure eroticism and intense passion felt towards another woman. However, Heidorn’s work in this context, the simple and everyday act of cutting and preparing, also measures the passage of time. From “strawberry summer I” to “strawberry summer II,” the scene changes, or rather, it progresses, effectively conveying the idea of inevitable, slow, and perfectly natural change. Here, in the midst of quartering the strawberry, the light of the first episode dims and fades, just as the invisible barriers of a relationship seem to intensify with every single movement of the blade slicing through the juicy, ready bodies of the strawberries.

This intensification reaches its peak in the third episode, “strawberry summer III”: the woman present in the first part of this narrative seems to disappear, leaving only the strawberry, which thus becomes the entire foundation, the fundamental representation of the author’s most intimate intentions. The shift in perception is an indicator of evolution: Courtney Heidorn grows and changes; she too progresses, as if to say, “Now I know myself and can afford not to alter what overwhelms me.” Empowered by this growth, she does not need to flee from her emotions. The strawberry remains the same, only divided in two, and most importantly, still attached to the green stem, which adds that edgy but necessary bitterness to the familiarity of the fruit’s sweetness on the tongue.

What emerges in Heidorn’s work, in their “touching, searching,” is the inherent need to be discovered, understood, and desired, with the intention “to beg / for something you didn’t know you needed.” In the deeply sought intimacy of the relationships they describe, Courtney is fully human: they savor, live, and recount with embarrassment for their “overfilled heart,” despite always being met with the caring availability of the one they address.

With a rhythm “enchanted” by sweetness—but also infused with cruelty—Palimpsest rediscovers the quintessential sapphic love and more: it emphasizes the importance of exploring the darkest depths of the self to uncover and learn to navigate one’s habits, starting from the history and concrete essence of the author. Here, Courtney Heidorn is completely and unapologetically open to the reader, who consequently becomes a friend and a listener. A must-read!

Sara Ricci is an editor and a writer from Bitonto, Italy. She graduated in southern Italy in foreign languages, and she is now an intern at Sinister Wisdom. She is an editor and writer for Gazzetta Filosofica, an Italian magazine about philosophy applied to things of everyday life. She also appears in other Italian magazines, such as Fatti Per La Storia, L’Indiscreto, and Kairos.

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