Who Was Your First Hero, Leah Umansky?

My first hero is actually a heroine. Two heroines, to be exact: Charlotte and Emily Brontë (Sorry, Anne, didn’t read you until college). What struck me the most was the power of the female voice at a time where women were still very much repressed, restricted and, well—unheard of as artists. It was probably the intrigue that surrounded the Brontë Sisters that I enjoyed the most, as it created a life-long dream inside me, of going to the Parsonage. What were these moors they lived on?  How did they write about such passions and desires? How did these women write such compelling fiction, when they hardly left their homes?

With Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, I learned from Jane about confidence and power, but I also learned about independence. Jane was her own woman in the end, despite the fact that she, well, ends up with Rochester.

But with Emily’s Wuthering Heights, I learned from both Catherine and Heathcliff.

Catherine taught me that the heart goes on no matter what. Love, goes on. I was drawn to the fact that despite marrying Linton and making that wrong choice, she knew her heart belonged to Heathcliff and, in her death, she recognized that love.

I think Heathcliff is my hero, despite the fact that he’s a misanthrope, and that some see him as a gothic, psycho-villain. To me, he is a tortured soul. He is heartbroken and alone. No one understands him, and he needs. He wants. He  taught me that everything we do in life is a choice, and we have to be wise.  And though he loses Catherine, he gains her in the end in the afterlife. Yes, I’m a romantic, but the Brontës were, too. Clearly. They both have made me into my own heroine.

Leah Umansky’s first book of poems, Domestic Uncertainties, is out now by BlazeVOX [Books.] Her Mad-Men inspired chapbook, Don Dreams and I Dream is forthcoming from Kattywompus Press in early 2014.  She has been a contributing writer for BOMB Magazine’s BOMBLOG and Tin House, a poetry reviewer for The Rumpus and a live twitterer for the Best American Poetry Blog. She also hosts and curates the COUPLET Reading Series. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in POETRY, Thrush Poetry Journal, and The Brooklyn Rail. Read more at: http://iammyownheroine.com

See Leah present her work at The Project Room on February 27th in Transforming Text- free!