honest work—that makes me feel verbatim.the widow says : sorrow is my own yard. I don’thave to look it up. it is one of the poemsI’ve accidentally memorized & whenhe was in the hospital I could recite it to him.
honest work—the samebones, onlycompressed. apologiesfor the delay, someone lefta package on the train. the armyexperience center at FranklinMills Mall includes three missionsimulators, a café & lounge. all yourrecyclables in one bin! ring inthe frost upon them freedomfrom fire. in fact, people are notparticularly kind to pregnant women. I have never
In a review of Patti McCarthy’s [see her 12 or 20 questions here] first trade collection, bk of (h)rs (Berkeley CA: Apogee Press, 2002), in Rain Taxi, American poet andcritic Catherine Daly writes:
McCarthyjoins a post-confessional focus on information of various sorts ascontent in poetry with the still-increasing awareness thatnon-canonical texts from the middle ages, renaissance, and “earlymodern” baroque period were written, spoken, or used by women. Shecalls attention to survivals in the language which indicate survivalsin the way we perceive our days and read old texts. She firstimmerses us in language, and a particular language of time andspecial case, creating a sense of intimacy and identification ratherthan identity. “[T]he clerestory as choice & not-choice” in“matins” is also a window in a cloister. A woman becomes “anyonewho grew up behind / the wreckage of a pastoral screen door” in thefollowing poem, “lauds.” The word “door” changes the screenof a harem window, a Japanese Imperial Court, or a monastery into acontemporary screen for keeping the outside out and the inside in,the screen on the doorway of the sublime. Then she matches andmismatches her present situations, what she knows from experience,with images from the past, what she knows from reading and studyinglanguage. She is both writer and reader: her subject matter is bothpublic and private. Finally, McCarthy establishes what she thinksabout the women she reads and writes about, “glances and hair down,their bodies produce no sound.” Their images, languages, andwritings speak through McCarthy’s prophecy of survival.
After three trade poetry collections—bkof (h)rs (2002), Verso (2004) and Table Alphabetical of Hard Words (2010)—allfrom Berkeley, California publisher Apogee Press, comes Pennsylvania poet Pattie McCarthy’s chapbook L& O (little red leaves e-editions, 2011). Constructed out of the sequences “liminal :” and “oyer :,” she explains the impetus for the first piece in her “notes & acknowledgments”:
This poem was brought to you by the Kelly Writers House, University of Pennsylvania. Written for the event “William Carlos Williams andthe Women: the Legacy of WCW at 125,” on 11 November 2008 [you can catch streaming of such here]. With many thanks to Jessica Lowenthal, organizer & host, & to my fellow participants : Sarah Dowling, Jena Osman, & Michelle Taransky. Includes much quotation & thievery from many poems by WCW (e/g/ everything after the second masses of flowers is quotation).October – November 2008.
Possibly written during or perhaps after the composition of her third trade collection, L & O forgoes McCarthy’s explorations of Old English for another type of language, and, as the first sequence lifts and resequences lines and phrases from William Carlos Williams, the second, “oyer,” hosts a list of that stretches more than two pages, from Eleni Sikelianos, Anselm Berrigan, Jen Hofer and Cathy Wagner to Lorine Niedecker, Fanny Howe, William Blake and Samuel Beckett. In her published work to date, McCarthy has managed to collage filtered and found language into acrobatic and emotional shapes, working though a passionate embrace of language writing, reminiscent of the work of Toronto poetMargaret Christakos, or even New York City poets Rachel Zucker and Arielle Greenberg. The poem-sequence “liminal :” catches a number of references, skipping stones across heady surfaces, wrapping one narrative sequence through the immediate of the author/narrator, from “it was so much empty / air to fill with ocean.” to:
& toddlers arrive & Ishould have stayedhome with my ownkid & had freecoffee & gradednothing.
all the usual margins.
honest work—a busy kind of dictionlimning out a greenglassinsulator make these calculationsmore complicated. ring in the newbaby […] open well its eyeslove & wrestlingwere brothers on the Mayflower& (one assumes) thereafter.katie & timothymccarthy were not(presumably) siblings on the Titanic.
The second sequence opens: “everything begins with A,” focusing deeper on pregnancy, and the immediately domestic, even as both sequences wrap themselves around pregnancy, the body, mothering, birth and children.
make it hard for me & I’ll make itimpenetrable for you. craftinga code & its key simultaneously,though a cipher is preferable(the former is cumbersome & unflexible).swags of pine, the day’s familiar. you needlanguage where you sit. the room whereour house is slowly (& with much old-worldgentility) falling apart. he coatshis fingers in antebellum plasterdust—the damp creeps (as they say) & his fingersplug the faucet. isn’t there anythingbeautiful in decay anymore? you squirm.I felt [your] bare foot from the inside.
There is something of the fragmented journal to both of these sequences, a form that McCarthy revels in, writing individual entries made in the spaces between the chaos of writing, teaching and children. As any writer with small children knows, there is the constant difficulty in finding time, in balancing writing and parenting (there is a reference to being on maternity leave in the second sequence, for example), yet its an effect that still seems to be felt more (and written about more) by women writers than their male counterparts. Where, I wonder, are the maternity/paternity leave poems by male writers?
at the boy’s birth in whom the iron shall cease—apologies, I ignored you to writea poem about you.