'The Beating Heart' is an allusion to the continuous pulsing of feelings that lie beneath the surface reality of our lives. This debut poetry collection ‘slips into the lining’ of various experiences from a childhood in the ancient city of Rome, whose ‘famous walls bulged with sanctioned corruption’ to the loneliness of a London bedsit, ‘narrow as a capsule, a chilly low-cost limbo’, to the lure of a Sydney bushwalk, where ‘mist lies over the grass, the trees, the everything, as lightly as a suggestion’. The elegant assurance of these meditative and melodic lines remind us that poetry can be, as the author believes, ‘a form of music’.
Here is a poet who understands the extraordinary in the commonplace, the flimsy place of life. The poems mill to edges, ripple by recollection and poignancy – the intergenerational weight of knowledge in simple things, ‘with foldings of clothes pressed smooth as stone’, where the ‘paper thin’ present is convulsed waiting on a child’s operation. O’Hagan’s mastery of the transcendence in moments, and the distillation of experiences, is the gift of a writer at the height of her powers.
— James Walton, poet
Each and every poem in The Beating Heart penetrates deeply into the core of our existence. There is no path, crossroad or threshold this gifted poet fears to take with her astute observations of what is often taken for granted. The migrant, the traveller, the historian, the pioneer and the mother are framed within immaculate and harmonic wordscapes. There is not one missed beat within this captivating collection of what it means to be alive.
— Angela Costi, poet and social justice advocate
Denise was born in Rome and lives in Sydney. She has a background in commercial book publishing in the UK and Australia, manages the independent publishing imprint Black Quill Press, and is Poetry Editor for Australia/New Zealand for Irish literary journal The Blue Nib. Her poetry is published widely and has received numerous awards, including first prize in the Adelaide Plains Poetry Competition and commendations in the Australian Catholic University Poetry Prize, the Robert Graves Poetry Prize and the National Writing Competition.