If you followed along with my AWP reports, you'll know that I was lucky enough to have a brief breakfast and book swap with Martha Silano. I can't remember how I first found Martha's blog, Blue Positive, but it's one of my favorites. Martha let us all follow along on the blog during the production of The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, so it was a double delight to hold the finished product in my hand. (The link to Saturnalia will show that the book is in production; however, it is available for sale NOW.)
By chance Martha's book wound up on the top of my backpack at the airport, so I read the first 4/5 of the book ten days ago. Last night, I reread the poems I'd dog-eared from that read and then polished off the last section of the five. Wow, what a great way to end a long and slightly stressful day.
Two words sum up this book for me: domestic and divine. To elaborate, these are poems about the domestic life of a busy mom-wife-woman-friend and include the daily details of meals, cars, jobs, and brand-named products, all the trappings of our 21st century lives. However, these domestic details are constantly brought to bear on the divine or vice versa, and what I mean by the divine is much larger than just religion. I mean the cosmos, spirituality, religion, and aliens; we mustn't forget the aliens.
The first section of the five into which the book is divided is titled "What I Will Tell the Aliens," and each section is titled based on a poem within. This first section features a speaker attempting to name "My Place in the Universe" (the first poem in the book). The section sets up the idea of this one speaker as one of the 6 billion plus people inhabiting this earth and the knowledge that there is so much more going on beyond our singular lives. The whole book reminds us that our little blue planet is just one dot in the larger universe.
Here's a bit from "What I Will Tell the Aliens"
Give me an alien, and I will give it
a story of unfathomable odds,
or erections and looting. Show me
an alien and I will show it the sorrows
of the centuries, all wrapped up
in a kerchief, all wrapped up
in a grandmother's black wool coat.
This brief excerpt showcases Martha's strengths as a poet. Her speakers are real, honest-to-goodness, struggling human beings, and they talk to the reader as if sharing a drink with a good friend. The poems are filled with humor, sarcasm, wit, and they always push the reader to answer the question: Who are we? What are we doing with our lives?
Here's just a sliver from "After Reading There Might be an Infinite Number of Dimensions"
... . I'm wondering how we don't
fall to our knees, knowing a hardened pea
lodged in the throat, can kill, knowing
liquids are banned on all commercial flights.
Leaves fall. The baby sucks her middle fingers.
Meanwhile, the refrigerator acquires
an unexplainable leak.
Just looking back at all the poems I have marked in the book, I could go on and on with this brief bits, but I'd be short changing both you, Dear Reader, and Martha. This is a book with poems that are begging to be read and reread.
I also vote this book BEST COVER of all the books spread out on my desk waiting to be read right now. Seriously, the cover alone is worth the price of the book, but the poems will prove your time well spent.
My all-time favorite lines from the whole book come from "No Refunds, No Exchanges." Here: "And yet I'm no girdle / on this galaxy's expanding waistline." I'm still smiling from this poem, this poem of optimism in the face of a life that might crush us at any moment.
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The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception
Saturnalia Books, 2001
I pre-ordered Martha's book -- I'm hoping it will be in the mail soon!
Yay, Karen. Let me know what you think!
This was one of my purchases at AWP, but so far my husband's had more time with it than I have -- he's a fan! :o) (At this very moment he's watching "the last christmas movie we'll see this year": "Santa Claus vs. The Aliens"...)
Marie, rip it from his hands! It's that good. :)
Great review! I, too, returned home with this book, but haven't dipped much into it yet. It will move to the top of the pile.
And I agree with you about the cover. Immensely appealing!
Kristin, I've purchased poetry books based solely on the cover before, and it's about a 50/50 shot that I'll like the poems. Not with this one: both the cover and the poems are out of this world. Hee hee. :)
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