Heartwrecks by Nicolas Destino

Musical notes, paint pigment, and lives of the heart converge in fantastical worlds of invention. Nicolas Destino’s adventures through relationship, music, and visual art
revitalize the lyric and re-imagine the ordinary. This is Heartwrecks.

Heartwrecks by Nicolas Destino
ISBN: 978-1-937420-35-2
Retail Price: $14.95
Publication Date: February 14, 2013


There is music on every page. Each poem is filled with chiasmi and a desire to articulate an almost productive pain. The lines move forward and embrace themselves at the same time. Readers are engaged, distanced. Nicolas Destino invites you to listen to “the cello [that] sweeps along the corner of an ear” and near his personal history like “a craving cartographer / not far away.” These poems refuse to let go once they “[arrive] today as / heartwrecks.”

– Nicholas YB Wong, author of Cities of Sameness

Destino is creating his own music here: with engaging patterns and repetition of words, fables, and surreal transformations, urban domestic scenes, imagined landscapes, or out in space with the stars. His poems are quiet, romantic and playful as he invites you into ‘marvelous reconstruction’ with an orchestral soundtrack of Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, and Corelli.

– Andy Quan, author of Calendar Boy

The Poet: Nicolas Destino, originally from Niagara Falls, New York, is a poet and essayist whose work includes a co-authored chapbook, Of Kingdoms & Kangaroo, and essay, “Travel of Sound,” which received notable mention in the Best American Essays series. He studied violin performance at SUNY Fredonia and received an MFA in poetry from Goddard College. Destino currently lives in Montclair, New Jersey, and teaches English at The College of New Rochelle in New York.

Nic on Nic: I am quiet person, but not silent. I’ve always enjoyed listening a little more than talking. Being an introvert, in my opinion, means absorbing as much information around me before offering my thoughts. I love to study natural history, animal taxonomy and various ecosystems. In another life I would choose to be a biologist or paleontologist. While I love all animals, I have an irrational fear of sharks – irrational because I fear attacks even when walking down a city street. Early in life I developed a love for language and all the anomalies found there. I remember repeating words over and over until they lost the immediacy of meaning. I entered my third grade poetry contest for a poem about Martin Luther King Jr. But I lost. My teacher’s comment on my poem noted that it didn’t “make sense.” This is the same teacher who wrote on my report card, “I think your son is possessed.”

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  4. Heartwrecks’s chamber pieces of everyday surrealism are disarming, precisely because of their gentleness. “…in an upstate kitchen, amid the languid, flat / dough, they got the news that there would be no more / bread, not until the moon was back up and pulling of its / own accord.” [Why would we run out of cookies if the moon can no longer “pull itself up”?] Nicolas Destino delivers a blow from the very beginning of the book with Resurrection. His hidden, irrational worlds are not the manic surrealism of self-conscious weirdness, but of the kind that’s made compelling because of its sheer matter-of-factness. A Spacesuit Can Save You: “…because there was a / glitch in your family’s travel plans, rerouting them to / other carnivals instead of places of pagination, and that is / one very happy family riding away on an antelope in the / opposite direction.” [Will they ever come back? Awful to think that they won’t…] This Bunuelean surrealism creeps up on you, and lingers long after you’ve read the last line. Fantasy for Jeffrey: “…we went there, to / the sticky beach, with our / kites, to the boardwalk where / a sign alerted us that all wind / was cancelled until we were / ready to lose one another.” The poet sinks his tentacles in you with images and scenarios of the uncanny. Neither he—nor you—will want to let go.

  5. In Nicholas Roeg’s sci-fi film The Man Who Fell to Earth, one character looks over the titular alien’s driver’s license. The alien nervously fusses with the part in his hair, trying to match, exactly, the hair in the photograph on the license. As he scrambles to learn the rules of the game, he is also engaged in a constant re-assessment of how to properly use those newly-learned rules. How closely should he adhere to them so as not to be found out?

    It’s this tension between wonder and dread that permeates Nicolas Destino’s first full-length volume of poetry Heartwrecks. For many of the narrators of the set pieces, language is a medium that can provide both fulfillment of—and failure in—meaning. Like our alien, they have a child’s way of dealing with the tectonics of new vocabulary: winds are “cancelled”; evenings “evaporate”; lobsters “twitch”. And in many of the best poems in the collection, the speaker does not convey meaning through words, but instead revels in meaning through mood and sound. In The Pines of Rome, “Opaque and often bound opal / over pastoral elegiac flow / overt with ostracized oboes…” is pure hard candy, rolled around in one’s mouth till it all melts [the musicality of the language is perhaps indebted to Destino’s background in Baroque violin].

    A beautiful ambiguity is set up when this naïve use of language gives way to a more “willful” naivete. Destino’s lyric is always that of the outsider’s: it is constantly working to look the part and to look a part, but it is also painfully aware of its always being apart. The strangeness of neologisms like “fireball glow” for the sun from In Love, or “obstinate bed-hog” in Impersonal Ad, has an almost prelapsarian quality to them, the prosody of some long gone oral tradition. Yet in other poems, the choice of words is a conscious stance. Everyday events and intimate tangles are recounted with a radical resistance against the utilitarianism of capitalism. In Broadcast, “I drank the coffee to drink it away…”: there is no other purpose—not to clean the mug, not to use up old coffee—other than the sheer pleasure of drinking coffee. And not drink it “up”, but “away”. Or in Sleeping with Darwin, overtures to the lover resist easy names for roles, or the sensationalism of a money shot:

    And the life form in my bed I cannot name in lovership,
    his right angle upon me, and something forced,
    and myself split in two,
    and the suddenness of becoming two things.

    Even as the poet’s narrators start to command their adopted language, there is a sadness in the realization that there is still a level of “compensation” when they use it. This is not their native tongue. This is not their “natural” way of speaking or perceiving the world. Words are only partially adequate. Just as musical ornamentation can be varied to evoke different nuances, Destino presents—as if through trial-and-error—multiple parallel universes. One sees this melancholy in what can be considered the poet’s most achingly sublime diptych of poems:

    In Love

    It wasn’t known if the ship’s men arrived today as
    heartwrecks, nor was it known if they arrived in love with
    other men away from ships When one man held the
    twitching lobster in the fireball glow of autumn evening,
    he looked sad, but it wasn’t know if he arrived as
    wrecked, arrived as an ornament in the fireball glow,
    arrived as a twitching lobster, it wasn’t know if he
    arrived at all.

    Out Love

    It wasn’t known if the truckers departed toward or away
    from husbands, nor was it known if their sunburns or
    blistered cargo held the maps, but the crates loosened
    flocks of parrots. One trucker held an emerald bird
    vibrating under the hot red bubble before departing, but it
    wasn’t known if the trucker departed toward a husband,
    toward emerald parrots, or toward dreams of arrivals, and
    as the red heat evaporated everything, it wasn’t known if
    the trucker departed at all.

    In Heartwrecks, the flush of excitement is checked by a gnawing sense of how fleeting love can be. Loss is precipitated by the willful choices one makes between this one thing, or that other person. From Sleep Therapy: “…but the real story is that I would give up all these dirty thoughts for healthcare.” Or as in Sunday Morning, a lonely lover, who nonetheless prefers to somehow remain alone:

    …If another man is naked
    with you in bed, you can say welcome visitor. If another
    man contaminates your environment, you can say thanks
    for coming over, and you can clean up after him with old
    rags only you know where to find.

    Whether through a squall of sound, or quiet and perfect miniatures of stolen moments that slip away too quickly and too soon, Nicolas Destino is the ever circling, ever watching, ever curious wanderer. Heartwrecks is a stunning debut.

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