Ann Cottrell Free’s collection of animal rights poems, aptly titled “No Room, Save the Heart,” is a deeply moving and wildly creative exploration of our relationship with animals. A renowned journalist, environmentalist, and animal advocate, Free captivates the reader with her evocative poetry that highlights the importance of compassion, empathy, and the preservation of animal rights.

As evidenced in her brief study of Albert Schweitzer, Free’s ability to capture the essence of animals, their lives, emotions, and experiences engages even the hardest hearts. Whether she writes about majestic swallows flying free, the mockingbird’s song, or the plight of dogs and factory farmed animals who suffer under human cruelty, Free brings their stories to life with poignant imagery and heartfelt verse.

Organized into five sections titled “The House of Life,” “Sunlight Still in His Eyes,” “The Quality of Mercy,” “Joy to the World,” and “The Way of Love,” the collection offers meditations by way of poems and short prose pieces. Free’s deft hand sketches odes to water buffaloes, hunted foxes and deer, harp seals, donkeys, bulls, monkeys in pet shops, and factory-farmed chickens. Literary references, including “Shakespeare and the Dogs of Lear,” are also woven throughout the collection.

“No Room, Save the Heart” appeals to a wide audience, including both animal rights activists and those who may not be familiar with the cause. The writing is accessible and compelling, offering a unique ethical perspective on the treatment of animals. Her poem “A Veal Calf’s Thoughts,” for instance, pierces the heart with the horrific truth about the abuse of vulnerable individuals. And her deceptively playful lament for the “Stir Crazy Laboratory Dog” evokes empathy with the repetition of “Circle, circle / Circle within your cage.” Free prompts readers to reflect on their own beliefs, inspiring them to become more aware of and compassionate toward animals.

“No Room, Save the Heart” is a remarkable collection. Whether you’re an avid animal rights advocate, a poetry enthusiast, or simply someone who believes in the power of empathy, this collection is a must-read. Prepare to be moved and inspired to make a difference in the lives of animals.

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