Friday, May 2, 2008

New Orleans Review: Review of Martha Silano's Blue Positive

At last my review of Martha Silano's amazing collection, Blue Positive, has appeared in the New Orleans Review. I say "at last" because it seems like I waited forever. Due to some strange internal errors, the review was omitted from the issue for which it was scheduled to appear. Then through yet another such error, it was omitted from the next issue. Then came the delays at the printer. But at last, yes, at last, it arrived, and it's a lovely journal, my first time in it. Wonderful poetry, an interview, very interesting black and white photography, and a number of book reviews. I'm proud to be part of the issue.

But I'm even happier to give some much deserved attention to Silano's book, published by Steel Toe Books. I was immediately captivated by the cover. Who could resist these brown eyes?

The poems are every bit as appealing. The dominant theme is motherhood. Silano looks at the subject from all possible angles. There's the excitement of pregnancy and the thrill of having a baby, but there's also the hard reality of postpartum depression. Silano gives us a close and painful view of the dark side of motherhood. Not just being tired or in a bad mood, but descending into real psychosis.

Other aspects of a woman's life are included: relationships with relatives, love and love-making, food. Silano has a masterful touch with sensuous details. When she sets the table in a poem, you feel as if you are right there, breathing in the aromas.

But that is just one of many gifts. Silano is wonderfully inventive and playful, and she employs engaging diction. Here's a poet who revels in form and language, deals comfortably in contradiction, and consistently surprises and delights the reader.

Here's one of my favorites from the collection. This poem first appeared in Poetry Northwest and was later featured on Poetry Daily.

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 your 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.

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  1. I love the last 3 lines of this poem. Gorgeous.

  2. Nice review of a fabulous book, Diane. Great to see this.

  3. Thanks, Kate. I think it's a beauty, as is the entire collection.

    And David, thanks, too. Do you have the full review in NOR? The journal is excellent, if a bit confused about their publishing schedule.

  4. Wonderful, Diane! I've long thought about buying a copy of this book, thanks for the positive review & confirmation.

  5. Diane,

    Could you email me the text of your review? I'd like to excerpt it on the STB web site.


  6. Place your order, Marie. I think you're the perfect reader for this collection.


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