Reviewed by Lee Rossi
From: The Los Angeles Review
Antidote for Night
Poems by Marsha de la O
BOA Editions, Ltd., September 2015
Reviewed by Lee Rossi
In the title poem of Marsha de la O’s new book, there is no antidote for night. Night—the domain of dream and death—is the price we pay for life and imagination. It is the without which not of art and love, and we make our accommodation with it as best we can. No one knows what terror or delights the next dreamscape will offer, and part of the charm of de la O’s poems is their utter unpredictability. She has studied her Neruda and Vallejo and concluded that the art of poetry involves giving readers not what they want but what they need.
“Say Nothing,” for instance, begins as a warning, an addendum to the old wives’ injunction against public displays of happiness. “Whatever I want the world will take away from me . . . ,” she begins, channeling her inner crone. And yet, how can she not praise “the steady slap of [her lover’s] heart . . . soft enough to sob for water . . . our two bodies . . . all that wet splendor.” She scares herself (“should I be saying this?” she asks, again in the voice of the crone), but not so much as to refrain from praising.
Faithful to the advice of Robert Bly, that early translator of the Spanish-language surrealists and advocate of ‘leaping poetry,’ de la O braids narrative, weaving rhythm and melody into un-ravel-able wholes. “Whistle Keeps on Blowing,” a meditation on the life and art of jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, begins in the middle, jumps to the end, circles back to the beginning, and then returns to the middle, that apotheosis of life and art at the fullest:
the beautiful attack, horn straying only slightly from melody,
that first element, a rush of breath in the mouth
of water, I got a mind to leave this world /
and I got a mind to stay
This is a magical book, not just because witches and magic figure in the poems, but because the poems themselves are charms, incantations, hexes and prayers. They offer an old-fashioned remedy for a contemporary soul sickness. In “This Time” the poet conjures the image of a woman standing on a high balcony and contemplating suicide. Before she makes her fatal leap she considers the sun, her “eyes locked on radiance.” “Let her body open,” the poet prays, “enough to receive that one particle of joy.” Read Rest of Interview Here