Friday, August 07, 2015

My Poem in Anthology MEASURE FOR MEASURE

I'm absolutely thrilled to have my poem "Sapphics with Little Rags and Cabbage" appear in the new anthology edited by Annie Finch and Alexandra Oliver, Measure for Measure. Published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2015, the collection is a wonderful way to study the fine points of meter through examples. Annie and Alexandra have organized it by metrical type and added notes on the different meter, which should make it a great way to learn more about new meters you may not have used in poems.

I wrote this about my childhood town, San Pedro, which was then the home of the West Coast's commercial fishery and also the port of Los Angeles. As a fishery, it attracted European immigrants from every country around the Mediterranean, especially Slavic people. To me, daughter of the rocket engineer, these old world grandmas seemed like something out of fairytales. Here's the poem -- as it appears in my book Femme au chapeau (soon to be available as an eBook!):

Sapphics with Little Rags and Cabbage

Fishwives from Zagreb dig in their stony yards.
Complaint-salted stories curl next to their molars
as they bury jars of pennies and nickels,
hedging the day’s catch.

Saturday evenings, grandmothers for hire
come to our house. Mrs. Pinsky’s arms jiggle
and little crosses dangle from ears. She winks,
smelling of garlic.

She salts her pot of Little Rags and Cabbage,
a stone stew she says is made with rutabagas,
rhubarb and thistles from women who, gardening,
glower at mowers.

I curse the Fisher God! they say as they spit.
Him who gaffed me onto this easy coastline.
They keep the sour taste of Vis in their cheeks,
sprouting like mushrooms.

They suffer in suits for ancient traditions.
Mrs. Vukasivich sends to the village
a picture of her Frank in his coffin, writes,
Breathing is over.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Magical realism, poetry & Pattiann Rogers' cat

I've been thinking about magical realism in prose, but today someone mentioned a poem that embodies the magic all around us without ever actually leaving the realism. Pattiann Rogers' stupendous meditation,"Find the Cat in a Spring Field at Midnight" does everything but levitate the cat -- which I would totally have accepted. But Rogers makes the cat vanish and unvanish, Cheshire Cat style, without ever actually leaving the field of realism.  

Here's the poem, from the December, 1982 issue of Poetry Magazine. In "the star-mingled calls of the toads" the poem steps lightly out of the commonplace and never returns. "It takes a peculiar vision ..." Indeed, it takes a visionary like Pattian Rogers.