Friday, March 16, 2012

Little Office of the Immaculate Conception by Martha Silano

Polish American poet Martha Silano’s newest book The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception (Saturnalia Books) has been chosen a Noted Book for 2011 by Poets.Org.


Here’s what the blurb at Poets.Org says about the collection:

Silano's third book contains poems that explore motherhood, casting new light on the quotidian, while at the same time, broadcasting messages about our common humanity to the cosmos.

While a sense of "the alien" is pervasive in this collection, and being alienated (from one's body, from one's friends, from one's needs) is the frustration from which Silano's manic energy stems, the use of sonic riffs and raucous humor enliven this work of the domestic and the divine—Silano's frenzied diction is just as much rooted in play and pleasure as it is in exhaustion or pain. This sense of celebration, paired with a sense of wonder at one's surroundings provides a comforting antidote to alienation. In the poem, "Because I Knew," Silano writes
                                                because I knew

that rather than interview a bolas spider, you'd
dial me up on the last pay phone, the one
   out back

of Tacoma Screw. Because I knew it was
like a cashmere-wool blend sock and the pair
   of leopard-

print panties it's electrically sticking to, I
   was wishing
for no red lights because you're Fantasia
   Fun Park,

the Red Dragon Casino, Rock and Roll's Greatest
The poem moves from this localized scene and opens up to the realm of space. It ends,
Because I knew you'd understand this—you, me, 
   our sibling

earthlings, our sibling citizens of this swirly world,
which only grows bluer the farther away from it
   we get.


I haven't read this collection of poems yet, but I read and enjoyed her earlier one Blue Positive (Steel Toe Books).  Her poems about pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood never stop engaging the reader.


Here's one of my favorite poems from the book:

Getting Kicked by a Fetus

Like right before you reach your floor, just
before the door of an elevator opens.
Like the almost imperceptible
springs you waded through
in Iroquois Lake.

Sometimes high and jabby near the ribs;
sometimes low and fizzy like a pie
releasing steam, like beans
on the stovetop — slow

like the shimmer of incoming tide — hot, soft sand
meeting waves, slosh bringing sand crabs
that wriggle invisibly in.

And sometimes a school of herring
pushing through surf,
or a single herring

caught from a pier like a sliver of moon rising in the west;
sometimes a tadpole stuck in a pond growing smaller
and smaller, a puddle of mud, squirmy like worms —
now your left, now your right. Sometimes

neon flickering, like that Texaco sign near Riddle, Oregon —
from a distance it read TACO, but up close
the faintest glow, an occasional E or X,
like an ember re-igniting.

Like seeing your heartbeat through the thinnest part
of your foot, sunken well between ankle and heel,
reminder of a world beneath your skin, world
of which you know little,

and the pond growing smaller and smaller, soon the rolling waves
like the ones you dove into at Bradley Beach, at Barneget,
growing less frequent, your giant ocean
drying up, your little swimmer
sinking, giving way
to the waves
of his birth.

Martha Silano‘s The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception was chosen by Campbell McGrath as the winner of the 2010 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. Martha teaches composition and creative writing at Bellevue College. 

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