Marys of the Sea (Second Expanded)
"She is not dead, but sleeping, Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke; like the sick girl of that verse, the speakers of Joanna Valente's sharp and urgent Marys of the Sea toss and turn through a series of feverish nightmares that refract lived experiences into prophetic and wild new imaginings. Preoccupied with the consequences of mothering and not-mothering, these fifty-three poems trenchantly interrogate sexual violence and its aftermath, lingering at the site of trauma as though hanging onto the lip of an abyss. Writing becomes power, structure an act of bravery. Like an ancient civilization's first creation myths, these poems utter light out of darkness as they order a world into being."
-Monica Ferrell, author of The Answer Is Always Yes and Beasts for the Chase
"Visceral in its fearlessness and candor, Valente's Marys of the Sea is a bravely, nuanced exploration of the subversive and sensual tensions that pulse in language and flesh. Marys of the Sea speaks of wounds, wombs, regeneration, and how experiences, particularly for women, undulate against a mythos of loneliness that can, without mastery and witnessing, devour. Valente writes, "In other languages my heart/beats us both alive, wedges/between words I speak.../" Here, it is only poetry that can begin to examine the blue underside of Valente's world and the oceanic perspectives of love that end and begin endlessly in the body, both feeding and killing at once. Valente's lyric is sinewy and spiritual. A whole world strands itself beautifully in the stunning eyes of Valente's intuition and intelligence. Always aware of what poetry demands even while it is breaking us apart, Valente's poems survive wholly in their heart-break: "Early bloomer, still waiting for the one poem/ that will bring me home.'"
-Rachel Eliza Griffiths, author of Lighting the Shadow, Mule & Pear, The Requited Distance, and Miracle Arrhythmia
"The title poem of this collection, Marys of the Sea, alludes to "two people at the bottom of a fish tank." So much of what we see in the world is blurred by our experiences and imperfections. These poems too, are blurred by tragedy, loss, and despair. It is hard to see clearly but Valente's perspective is keen. It is the world that is blurred and dirtied. This is a collection of poems best read one by one and not all at once. For as Valente says, "Let [it] simmer, don't eat it all at once." There is so much hunger and appetite in these poems. Like the speaker, we all want what is out of reach, but sometimes in the world of the poem, we achieve our wantings. The book is quest-like in its search for love and its search for acceptance. What lies in its depths are: shadow wives, girlhoods, bones, jarred-starlight, alongside Mary and Lucifer--showing the reader the layers of life and death in this "so-called new world" we live in."
-Leah Umansky, author of Domestic Uncertainties, Straight Away the Emptied World, and Don Dreams and I Dream
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