Abnormal Repetitive Behaviors

Abnormal Repetitive Behaviors explores bonds of love that persist despite trauma, and the struggle to come to terms with family legacies of grief, loss, and despair.

The murder-suicide of the author’s grandparents serves as a backdrop for an examination of trauma and recovery through several generations, and the affective neurology of emotions that we share with everyone else, even animals. Abnormal Repetitive Behaviors explores how we respond to violence, grief, and loss, and the ways animals are emotionally akin to us in those responses. Driven by the ways those primary emotions get tangled with memory, the ways the body informs the mind, we end up feeling and repeating behaviors linked to original struggles long after they have passed. Fighting against what threatened to cage us, the fight itself becomes the cage, affecting our lives and relationships in the most visceral ways. Yet it is the simplest things that promote recovery and survival: a calming animal touch. Simple presence.


“In Abnormal Repetitive Behaviors, Leslie Heywood gives the reader exquisite lyric narrative poems that tackle loss and pain and love with a brave ferocity. These beautifully-crafted poems are polished containers that hold within them all the violence and rage of her childhood home, especially the rage of the father she loves but does not see for years before his death, and the long family legacy of violence that created his rage, and hers, the rage she knows must stop with her. This book is an elegy for him and the loss that permeates all lives, and a testimony to the simple care that can redeem. Terror still lives within these poems and sorrow for the cruelty and chaos of a world in which humans cannot seem to exist without destroying as much as they create, but the vision of a new world is there. What an amazing, powerful book.”—Maria Mazziotti Gillan, winner of the American Book Award and the Barnes and Noble Writers for Writers Award

“Leslie Heywood writes like her life is at stake, urgently imagining her way into the past in an attempt to salvage the present. Moving between poles of constraint and freedom, lyric and narrative, the traumatic and the mundane, she crafts poems that grapple with fierce love and difficult forgiveness. ‘How do we outlast grief?’ she asks. This book is one stunning and worthwhile answer.”—Benjamin Myers, Oklahoma Poet Laureate

Leslie Heywood ( Author Website )

Publication Date: April 28, 2016

Genre/Imprint: Poetry, Red Hen Press

$11.95 Tradepaper

Shop: Red Hen, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble

ISBN: 978-1-59709-730-7