Post Number: 78
|Posted on Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - 02:41 pm: ||
These three short pieces were written as introductions for three echapbooks to be published by Ekleksographia / Ahadada Press. I was not able to maintain proper spacing in all the quotations, but they should be correct in the Ekleksographia version. Apologies.
MELANIE LYNN MORO-HUBER’S THE MEMORY OF PAPER
Melanie Lynn Moro-Huber is a busy, active mother of five. In a Roanoke Times article about her, “Hard Work Pays Off Today for Hollins Graduate,” Marquita Brown says that “some call [Huber] a superwoman”: she
juggled raising five children, and caring for an ailing sister in Arizona while she took a full course load at Hollins University.
And during part of that time, she did it while her leg was broken. On many nights, after her children fell asleep, she studied, sometimes working past 2 a.m.
The six-year grind will pay off today for Huber. She's set to graduate today from the Hollins Horizon program, which caters to women seeking a college degree at later points in their lives...
Huber insists what she's done are things any woman would do if she's determined to realize a dream…
Those who know Huber said they are inspired by her determination.
“I don't think you could knock her down if you wanted to. She's a powerful woman.”
The article doesn’t mention her poetry; one wonders what Ms. Brown might have made of lines like these—from the opening poem of this collection:
Below the plume there is the down,
and how else would a white dove
become a phoenix but stitched within
an ivory refuge for the heated brain—
a thin spine makes a better head rest.
A quill, however, has no mercy.
What in the world do those lines—probably about a pillowcase—mean? Particularly the enigmatic, rather frightening last line: “A quill…has no mercy.”
Marquita Brown’s article is unrelentingly inspirational; Huber herself talks about the importance of her family’s support of her return to school, the difficulties they had to endure, and how it became possible for her to “realize a dream.” Her friends are “inspired by her determination.” This is the second stanza of the poem quoted above:
Softness requires a certain amount of power,
a reverence for nesting. Or some would say
a precise amount of time
before the body conforms to the pillow.
The impression, though slight, endures.
I discovered this once, in the temple—
when the air started to give
a spike of white came whiffling
down to the prayer altar.
From the bed to the temple in scarcely a breath. What exactly do the resonant lines, “Softness requires a certain amount of power, / a reverence for nesting” mean? And “whiffling”?
These enigmatic, problematical, fascinating poems seem to be the product of a consciousness which is determined to remain hidden even among its carefully-placed revelations. The poems assert private—a word which is etymologically connected to privation—while, at the same time, the power of their language invites us in, puzzles us, interests us. “It is what we bring to the process of reading,” Huber writes, “the process of creating, and the process of discovery that makes poetry worth while. If a poet’s got the juice, then a reader will taste the words.”
The words contained in The Memory of Paper taste in many ways, but the point is that they taste: they are something to do with our “tongues”—and our minds as well:
I will take the prayer beads from my neck
as the bullets are arranged in tally marks
my breath will fog white into the pitch
and I will say good-bye again and again.
INTRODUCTION TO KATHERINE HASTINGS, FOG AND LIGHT
Katherine Hastings’ poem “SIDHE”—generously dedicated to me because of some suggestions I made early on in its composition—opens with a designation of
The first “there” refers to Ireland , the second to San Francisco , where the Irish-American author grew up: “Ireland/San Francisco.” But behind this juxtaposition of two related/unrelated places is a deep perception of a selfhood which is also made up of related/unrelated elements—which is wind-like, “constant with its shifts / in temperature and direction.” In a poem set in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, the poet’s awareness of the statues of naked women (“women of clean, / cold marble”) comes bang against her awareness of the disturbingly erotic presence of another observer (“your eyes on me”). The poem is split between warring attractions:
Square blocks of light
path in and out of shadow
Frosted windows, women of clean,
cold marble. (What would be the use
of getting to know each other?) White
Hastings’ poems carry into her present consciousness what Muriel Rukeyser called in “Double Ode” “all the old gifts and wars.” Here, selfhood moves deeply among its fragments seeking not unification but some sort of balance—some sort of relief: “Our wish”
is just for ground to act like ground again,
to hold us firmer than fog, than water,
for the moon to break through and knock us down,
tell us what to do with these shaken ruins.
Love, death, bereavement, ethnicity (what does it mean to be Irish American?), and a constant tendency towards the mythologizing of experience—towards story—are all elements in this poet’s work. Perhaps the most brilliant, most revelatory poem in the book is the long, autobiographical/fanciful “SIDHE” in which the author’s extremely problematical San Francisco childhood and adolescence rise to the surface amid fragments of ancient Irish stories and poems. Nothing is “resolved” in the poem but everything appears, insisting on its place in the poet’s constantly moving psyche:
O'Sidhe Lives Through
The women's hot tub
a block from the ocean.
Clothes in trees.
Naked back and forth
across the Great Highway .
One man disappears, arms extended like a cross
morning is wrapped in a sheet without a sound
from someone's line. the lost are found!
Booze weed 'shrooms Angel of this sacred place
than she bargains for.
Calm her soul and whisper peace
Twin Peaks Woman
undresses in front of the fire
undresses O'Sidhe, too.
(O John Wayne stay away
from the shape-shifter!)
A man she thinks she loves
and comes hard to Night flyer
but she is Irish (remember?)
and he is Jewish so,
the Mother. Earth Walker
Then coke then dope Shape shifter
then Death with a capital D
one night standing Night flyer
right in the corner
the 80s pounding on the door Earth!
WAKE UP! EVERYONE'S GOING
She didn't. Flyer!
Away, come away:
Empty your heart of its mortal dream.
O, Dark mother
This brilliant, complex passage is like the book itself: a swirl of elements which rise up to dance before us in all their complexity of reference and their richness of emotional tones.
INTRODUCTION TO MARY-MARCIA CASOLY, AUSTRALIA DREAMING
Dreams, wrote Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams, “really have a meaning and are far from being the expression of a fragmentary activity of the brain…When the work of interpretation has been completed, we perceive that a dream is the fulfillment of a wish.”
The dream poems of Mary-Marcia Casoly may not be the fulfillment of a wish, but they deliberately enter a realm which might easily be called “fragmentary”:
She thinks she hears a bell but there is nothing that sound could
Moment is made
There will be free course. No one to distress you in exits or entrances, friends come and no error is committed. Return and repeat the proper course. There will be an advantage in whatever direction.
“On the day of the winter solstice, they shut the gates of the passes from one state to another, so that the traveling merchants could not then pursue their journeys, nor the prince go on with the inspection of altered states.”
Casoly’s work is a deliberate mingling of “states”—a crossing over from day states to night states and back again, so that at any given moment the dream world and the “real” world may intersect, illuminating or sometimes contradicting each other:
You ask me what life is to the one who wins me asleep
compared to the one who lost me, awake.
You ask for a page of newspaper, ask me to watch carefully
as you stub your toe against unfamiliar furniture.
You ask, Do I like carrots? You take my wrists,
place your thumb on my pulse.
You ask where I got the gift of hurt.
The intensity of the motion—the “flight”—is the point. “Only birds know we…need our wings,” she says further on in “Friend.” Casoly’s method allows her to enter a state in which consciousness opens itself up to a far wider range of awareness than would be possible to someone consciously attempting to discover “what I feel.” Contexts and moods shift with the suddenness of a new phrase: “I speak clearly / with the bones of my smile.” But isn’t that precisely the way mind functions? Don’t we always bring to bear a multitude of contexts—some “conscious,” some “unconscious”—upon any given subject? “Life,” Casoly asks, “do I have a way home?” Is that meant to be funny? Or is it an expression of sadness, exile?
Words, with the multiple meanings they release when freed from an overly exact syntax, are the key to the wonderland this Alice enters whenever she puts finger to keyboard. A visit to Australia produced various experiences for the person Casoly but it also produced
The laughing kookaburra blinks his dark
eyelashes three times slowly, before gulping down dark
ochre streaks of barramundi bones, and scratchy
(This in the context of a sestina!)
Birds abound in this whirled world of sudden arrivals and departures (“capice?” she asks in one poem) in which genuine autobiography (“Blind Sided,” “My Chef Left for Mendocino”) comes bang up against total fancy, whimsy, sadness, happiness, wonder, comedy: “ugggggggggggha ugggggggggggggggggha.” The “Squawk” mentioned in “Lost Pages of Bird Lore” is a reference to the author’s toy parrot, Squawks, whose range of vocabulary includes the phrases “mannaggia la misera” and “John Ashbery.” When Casoly performs the poem, Squawks is a visible presence. “I Am Bird,” she writes,
I am bird heavy
with weightlessness, bird hungry
for something unnamed
I am bird refusing one place to perch,
holding cilantro in her beak,
meddling in nettles.
I am bird lifting a twig twice
as big as herself, throwing off
beads of water, unraveling stones…
I am bird song so caught in my throat
I had to let it out.
Melanie L Huber
Post Number: 200
|Posted on Friday, April 16, 2010 - 10:32 pm: ||
thanks Jack. Look forward to seeing the other collections.
Post Number: 80
|Posted on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 - 09:36 am: ||
Me too! All interesting, all different. I have a couple more on the burner. Jake Berry will probably be my next victim!