17 - Sister Betty Reads the Whole by Susan Holahan Nov 8, 2008 1:21:59 GMT 2
Post by shayepoet on Nov 8, 2008 1:21:59 GMT 2
Sister Betty Reads the Whole You
“Reading these poems is like walking through a living museum that holds all the contents of an enthusiastic, humane, endlessly receptive woman’s mind. Susan Holahan makes use of a great deal that others discard, from infinitesimal to gigantic, tangible and intangible, amusing and tragic. Her poems are brimming with history, politics, friendships, love that succeeds and love that fails. This is poetry that refuses isolation but speaks challengingly right in the face of pain both public and private. I love the generous imagination that can hold so much.”
Could Be Dyeing
--after Elijah Bemiss, The Dyers Companion, 2nd Ed.,
On this low-color day with teasels of Sun and the air a cool muggy
the dyers only home companion
blanches. Across the street the school bus loiters.
Raise your own teasels, Bemiss says, and you have them
when you want them. Unlike children. Our Bemiss
kept his kids around
by pledging, for example: Use milk paint,
you sleep in the room the night you paint it. Today
I haul up to the attic the sagging footstool to hide before
mother arrives. I never finished
the cushion I'm making
from a square of antique Turkoman to cover
the citron velvet she said spoiled the whole living room.
Now the son's gone again, I could use help moving furniture
when you stop back from where you ran off to
before the school bus lodged on Rockingham, painting,
grumbling, like the woman in the store last night who needed
real junket, Like what you get from a kosher deli. She minced
not a word about her kid's demanding pudding
then wheeled back
to cathect to Bird's Custard, closer in colors to what
she had on anyway than to the quince
of my footstool. Did mother say disgusting?
FOR YELLOW DRAB: take three quarters of a pound of fustick,
two ounces madden, two ounces logwood, boil well, add one quarter
pound of alum, run your cloth one hour; sadden with two ounces
copperas and handle till your colour pleases.
That not my color nor the footstool's
will ever please Mother, no madder how much handling,
could sadden me but I've dropped the moment
through the attic stairs
near where the twelve foot light chain
my kid hung last time he visited dangles. Bemiss. Some
companion he turned out to be. A man
who could promise Good Cider
Easily Made as Bad never had kids. But. My sun
has returned with crushed, soaked weeds and
flowerheads more brown than fulvous yellow. I don't know
what else I can ask from this life.
Raves and reviews for Sister Betty Reads the Whole You:
"Holahan’s poems explore the complex refractions of self/ non-self (“What’s not my story”) as a figure who registers the personal through political lenses. “A History of Food” catalogues political events that correlate with the narrator’s complex relationship with food. . . , served throughout as a political instrument in familial and world warfare, in a reward and punishment system, in a patriarchal system in which women and children stand in food lines. For the poet, it serves as an emblem for writing as well. In “They Pull Up All The Pavement,” the poem can replace the nourishment of human relations:
If all the marriages should end, I want a poem
more like a soup pot you just put on the stove and you
don’t know what’s going into it yet than like the pillars
of the Parthenon.
--Review excerpt--Kay Murphy, Univ. of New Orleans, “Street Smart, Heart Wise, Word Keen,” in Spoon River Poetry Review XXIV, #2, Summer/Fall 1999
"Holahan’s “The History of Food,” a three-page narrative tour de force in which twentieth-century American history, politics and culture are played out through the linked metaphors of hunger and satiation. Although the poem is built on a structure of long lines and prose-like paragraphs, it is filled with strategic repetitions of sound, rhythm and stress. . . . This poem works on so many different levels at the same time that enumerating them would take away from its dazzle. . . .
Without being a “language poet,” Holahan is attracted to the oddities of idiom and inflection, as shown most clearly when she takes on a new persona. . . . [Her] work helps us to hear the voices of the marginal and imperfect among us in all their quirky and haunting eloquence.
--Review excerpt: --Sue Russell, “Strangely familiar,” in The Women’s Review of Books XVI, #2, November 1998, 26-27.
About the author:
With a Ph.D. in English and a law degree from Yale, Susan Holahan has taught writing at Yale and the University of Rochester, practices law in Connecticut, worked as an editor at Newsday and the Yale University Press. She has published poetry in many periodicals, including Agni, Crazyhorse, and the Women's Review of Books; fiction in American Short Fiction, Icarus, the anthology Bitches and Sad Ladies, and others standing: and an essay on Frank O'Hara's poetry in American Poetry Since 1960; book reviews in Newsday, The Yale Review, and others; columns, restaurant reviews, and feature stories of all kinds in other newspapers and magazines. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
ISBN 0-87905-758-0, 84 pages
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$10.95 originally; $2 to any wompo who e-mails me with her address—or I’ll do
a no-cash straight exchange with anyone who sends me a book of hers.