Monday, September 25, 2017

Prayer: fix my set: Poems by Martha Boss

Prayer: fix my set
Oddball Publishing
Copyright 2016
44 pages
Poems by Martha Boss
Review by Lo Galluccio

The new book of poems by Martha Boss, recently released by Oddball Magazine Publishing, is truly a genius treat to read. Martha’s thinking and her pen are tightly bound so that you feel as though the ink on the page is her very own blood. But these are not poems inked in dry salty blood – their effect is more like cherry juice or a Manhattan cocktail. Martha seems loaded with brilliant insights about her own process of creating and the world around her. She eschews capital letters and uses an ampersand instead of “and.” Her book begins with this Whitmanesque declaration:

i celebrate my pen.
keeper of protest & riot.”
And later in the poem she writes:
my pen, desperate avatar
Of truth, translating
Crammed passion.”

Boss, a regular at Stone Soup on Monday nights, writes in free verse, her stanzas no set length and without rhyme schemes. Her own logic about things is jazz enough. In the title poem: Prayer: fix my set, she engages in a monologue to the Maker, in which she begs him to get the remote working and turn on the TV. This is quite entertaining until, at the end, she issues one more request:

Where are you from. Anyway, God?
Give me a sign.
I’m praying.
I’m guessin’ radioshack, please.
Can you fix my set?” p 8

I love the idea that God is at radio-shack, hanging with the other employees in a uniform.
Poems about the movie, “The Ten Commandments,”
hmm …now I’m thinking with my pen.”
Ends with “did God give the order to have Jesus killed?
Wassup with these guys?”

In a confessional poem about her own process she writes that she starts by drawing the sky every day and birds.

I draw every day. Every day I draw
the sky. It’s usually indigo blue. It usually gets me past a bad memory. …& birds. I draw
birds.” P 12

In the playful poem “Cookie Man” Boss coyly feeds a flock of birds some fig newtons...identifying with the birds as they
peck at one & then another & another like they’re seeing if they all taste the same
and they’re not sure what it is” p 26 
She notes from the box that they were made in Mexico which prompts Boss to finish the poem in Spanish:

hay chica. esta la fantasma del galeta-hombre./el cookie-man esta viviendo en el arbol
y ahora we know eso es que pasa a los fig newtons.” P 27
Roughly translated, the cookie man is living in the tree and now we know that is what is happening with the fig newtons. 
In “I walk by the river of everything” Boss takes on a musing stance toward probably the Charles River in Cambridge –

along the reedy banks/of high bio research/I am a single digit/wrapped tight in wool
some other/Ireland river. In a lyrical declarative voice she then sings: in spring we will
float/ our boats/the river of everything/will flow with experiment…and the waste of
ideas/have given it new data./the river moving the mystery/the unknowable genome/in
the undertow.”p 34

All the poems in this collection are good and riveting. In her plain-spoken eccentricity Martha Boss brings her own vision and life to the poetry she writes. There is a staccato feel to these pieces but then sometimes a well-spring of aria that extends the lines. It feels home-made and well spun, like plain funny and fantastic clothes you want to try on again and again. From the aluminum space suit to the cotton dress – all the birds she invokes—draws us into her mind’s resonance of language. I highly recommend checking out prayer: fix my set out.

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