Book Review: Heather Cadenhead's Inventory of Sleeping Things

When I first received Heather's chapbook, Inventory of Sleeping Things (Maverick Press, 2010), I almost mistook the Table of Contents for a poem because she has such interesting titles such as “The Cracking of Bones Makes the Same Sound as Falling in Love,” “A Coat on a Love Seat, Translated,” “The Difference in Being Dead and Being Alive is Motion.”  Reading these titles, I knew there would be some expected moments in this chapbook and as I read, I was right.

The first thing I noticed about Heather’s work is her ability to create fresh images out of every day words.  She writes in the first poem of the chapbook,  … but I want a sky that swallows ideas. And guess what? So do I.  Who knew I did, until she wrote that?

This is what I love about finding a new poet, the surprise of how she sees the world.  The next poem, “Idea” has another image that I haven’t been able to remove from my mind:

            I sift through it like my grandma used to sift through
            my candy bucket on Halloween.  GOOD and NOT GOOD:
            chocolate bars lined up like gravestones by the garbage bin.
            Sometimes the best ones get thrown away.

And I love this poem’s meditation on what an idea is, each stanza is a unique image of what an idea may be.  She ends with another favorite couplet:

            Finally, I put it in the closet like a finished sketchbook,
            once useful to me.  But, really, just taking up space.

The whole book is filled with these insightful lines taking our ordinary language and turning it into something extraordinary.

From “Our Share of Plums”:

My hair is a house
for your fingers.

From “Crooked Here” after next-door neighbors have installed a new light on their porch:

…Now they shine
when they move, like actors in a spotlight. Sometimes, I applaud from the window, soundless.

From “The Difference Between Being Dead & Being Alive is Motion”:

With you, the order of living things is broken…
Some mornings, you spend hours underwater.
It is a way of hiding.
You wonder at the fish…


For me, this is what I so enjoyed about this chapbook, how the poet writes to create a new and fresh look at the world and less about wanting to dissect meaning or force the reader to see her perspective.  She allows the poems to exist on their own—through images and moments—and the reader is there as the observer and allowed to establish to her own feelings and ideas. 

There is no pushing by the poet with judgmental language to make you feel one way or another, you are given a poem, a moment, a meditation, a poem spoken to another and as readers, we are there to find the freshness in the moment.  We find the surprise in the relationship and taken to a new place where, as in the poem “Dusk” someone might be in the stars tomorrow or finding out she kept that letter you told her to throw away.

It’s a gift to find a new poet.  This is my first time reading Heather’s poems and if this is just her first chapbook, I can only imagine the good things she has in front of her in the poems she will write. 

Heather Cadenhead resides in Nashville, Tennessee. Her poems have been featured in journals like Ruminate, Relief, Illuminations, and others. In 2009, her poem “The Wedding” received an Editor’s Prize from New Plains Review. In 2010, her poem “Illiterate” was nominated for Best of the Net anthology and she was featured as the June poet for Chantarelle's Notebook. She also works in publicity for Thomas Nelson Publishers. For more information, see

Heather Cadenhead



  1. Again, Kelli - such a gracious review. So happy to make a new poetic acquaintance. And my friend Renee speaks so very highly of your book - I'll have to check it out! (She's the reviewer from NewPages. We went to college together.) Thanks again!

  2. Thanks, Heather! I just included Renee in my thankful Thursday post as I saw she reviewed my book for NewPages!

    I don't know her, but just saw she reviewed my book - and she got it right on- as well as gave me a great review. How synchronistic you two know each other and went to college together as I mentioned both of you on my blog in the same week!

    And glad you liked the review. Good wishes for all your future writing!


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