Quantum Heresies by Mary Peelen
Glass Lyre Press, 2019.
Reviewed by Donna Vorreyer


1. a discrete quantity of energy proportional in magnitude to the frequency of the radiation it represents.

Hypothesis: The energy required to endure is proportional to the difficulty of the event endured.


      • from “Zero”– “just a space that ached/like an unmoored ghost//or antiseptic hours/in a hospital corridor,//aura of always and never/at the same time.”

      • from “Draw” - “~on her experience//In the three weeks leading up to the first surgery, she was/so anxious she hardly slept or ate. What followed was/not only worse than she imagined but it lasted forever,/and so she often thought about those three weeks. She/could have slept in and eaten ice cream for breakfast. She/should have taken up fencing and started writing her/novel.”

      • from “Migraine” - “a great star implodes,/its fiery mass crushed//like a bad draft,/helium into heaviness,//nickel, iron./Then, the explosion–/radioactive,/violently illuminated.”

2. a required or allowed amount, especially an amount of money legally payable in damages - a share or portion.

Hypothesis: The love we allow ourselves for each other and the world compensates for our losses.


      • from “One” - “When I come to you/offering one small green pear,//I’m asking you to believe in/every green there is,//at every hour./The whole tree.”

      • from “The Big Bang” - “After the great catastrophe//angels sang in the pitch of faraway heavens,/dust spun into moons and meteorites,//trace elements forged into artifacts–/two ticket stubs, a house-key,//a scarlet dress with a train,/olive trees pruned in the moonlight.//The surgeon cites statistics like a rosary/while we take notes…”

      • from “Heaven and Hell: The Visible Spectrum (Blue)” - “The sea glimmers from every direction. The breeze in Andros is/scented with wild thyme, goatherds call in their flocks at dusk, and/Ruby forgets to regret she’s turning fifty.//Ruby’s cranky, says, you write about migraines too much. Bruised,/guilty, headache tangled in my hair, I swear I’ll never write another/word as long as I live.”

Heresy: pl: heresies

  1. belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine

Hypothesis: Faith and science are bound to collide in a world were neither one can comfort or heal.


      • from “x” - “it’s the placeholder/of uncertainty,//like the notion of/God”

      • from “Proof” - “God is what you believe,/that’s the only definition.//It doesn’t mean everything/you fear will come to pass.”

      • from “Ursa Major” - “I shiver on my city balcony/below the sharp rime star,//pockmarked cement gone lunar gray./I can’t pray anymore.//I can’t bear the blaze of this asterism/spread out across the ruthless sky.”

        2.   opinion profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted

Hypothesis: No circumstance or emotion is without its own strange beauty or ability to impart grace.


      • from “String Theory” - “Here at the horizon of theoretical extinction,/we cut flowers for the table.//We sing the way weary mourners do,/praising geometry as if miracles could happen.”

      • from “Proof” - “Amidst daily catastrophe/miracles arise mathematically,//coordinates on a star map/beyond the lure of insanity.”

      • from “Variable” - “The x could have been/anything at all,//the sound of wind chimes,/a gong, a choir, a cantor,//a mermaid, a schoolmarm,//cathedral bells.//Instead –what a lark–/it’s laughter.”


  • Peelen has created a collection that acknowledges and celebrates the flawed ways in which we try to explain our universe. 

  • For all its science – its particle physics, its elements, its Mandelbrot sets – Quantum Heresies is  ultimately about trying to enumerate the inexplicable act of living in the very human spectrum of experience from the most crippling tragedy to the deepest love. 


Donna Vorreyer is the author of Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (Sundress Publications, 2016) and A House of Many Windows (Sundress, 2013) as well as eight chapbooks, most recently The Girl (Porkbelly Press). Her reviews have appeared in The Rumpus, Quarterly West, Sugar House Review, Cider Press Review, Tinderbox Poetry, and other journals.