Review: Between O and V (poems)

One of the unexpected pleasures of moving up the masthead to Senior Editor of Literary Mama has been getting to correspond with all the other department editors about pieces they’re considering for publication. It’s been particularly enlightening for me to work with our poetry editor, Sharon Kraus, since my formal poetry education is limited–aside from the odd 2-week unit on poetry in one class or another–to one college seminar on Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, plus reading my dad’s work. I still remember how he responded when I wrote him about an English class in which we were studying e.e. cummings: he wrote me a sonnet about how he would teach poetry!

So when Maria Scala, one of Literary Mama’s columns editors, said she was interested in exchanging reviews of recent publications, I jumped at the chance, though I had to warn her — and now caution you readers –that I can’t write very knowledgeably about the form. I respond to what I like, pause to admire unexpectedly effective word choices, remember images that resonate with me. I read her chapbook, Between O and V, straight through over lunch the other day, which is not at all how one should read poetry, I think, but speaks to the appeal of Maria’s writing. Reading these poems felt rather like sitting down with a beautiful bowl of ripe cherries, not wanting to stop consuming them till they were gone, and then sitting still, satisfied, for a time at the end.

There’s a mood of concern in some of these pieces, a sense of worry about the future, which speaks to me (I’m the one who’s got a fortune which reads “You are worrying about something that is not going to happen” taped to her laptop, remember?). “I’m not long for this world / if I don’t have you” goes one stanza; or in a poem titled “Nonna,” in which a mother tries to busy herself away from thoughts of grief, “I fear for the day / when I have to make myself / forget this way.” Deep sigh.

The perspective in these pieces feels familiar to me; it’s a voice old enough to see her parents clearly, as people apart from being parents, and now starting to reconsider some of the impressions and ideas of her childhood. These are moving poems about relationships and writing, particularly interested in family, but there’s a light touch to them, in pieces like “House Rules,” which begins simply “Stick together.” Or the sweetly funny “Now I Am Married,” in which the narrator, her husband away on business, “awakens[s] in the middle of the night / cold and surprised / heartbroken too: / remembering how good it is / to accidentally elbow you in the head / so that I can kiss it better.” I loved “My Friend Is Left-Handed,” which made me laugh, in the context of these carefully-observed pieces, with its opening line: “After all this time, / I never noticed.”

But my favorite is perhaps “My Literary Uncle,” which ends, “I pare down each experience / hoping to leave / a lovely mess of shavings / behind.” This collection is a lovely mess of shavings indeed, and then some.

One Comment

  1. Maria says:

    Thank you, Caroline! I am still blushing from that gorgeous bowl of cherries analogy.