Review by Tiziano Thomas Dossena
In this outstanding collection of poems in prose, or prose poems as they may be defined, Michelle Reale evaluates and presents the doubts, soul’s contortions, and general emotions of her youth as well as the appraisal of her father’s troubled early life. She does this with a sensitive and expressive tone and an enviable mastering of the language, leaving to the reader nothing to imagine and everything to feel and visualize through her words, as in the poem Blood Memory, which gives the name to the collection:
“At the start, a surging melancholy. The clash of chromosomes, the unseen bruises on the helix, contorted. A crimson drop, no mere stain, spreads into the woven, familiar fabric. Worsted, twisted, taut, like hands around a throat. Like a whole apple in the mouth. Memory like a cleft in the chin, indelible. There is pressure on the throat from works unspoken, truths not told. Release the bottleneck. The trauma thrums nice and steady, predictable. The eye is persistent in the witness of the curse of skipped generations. Grim acceptance. The waiting can drive those who are aware enough to the threshold with empty hands.”
Reading these poems is therefore an adventure of sorts in the emotional world. Be prepared to capture the emotional state of the writer as well as one of the protagonists of the poem, whether being a youthful Michelle or her father. Be prepared to sense her regrets about certain aspects of her family relations but also her awareness of the boundless love that surrounded her at home, as in the poem Stregoneria:
“…I tried, but never managed, to be able to contain all the things that I loved. I made lists and put my dead grandparents on the top of every single one of them, and even that wasn’t enough. My mother’s superstitions kept my father awake at night, staring into the nothingness that enveloped him for years…”
These poems will touch you and bring you close to the poet, and that would be already a great reason for reading Blood Memory, but there is certainly more value to this collection than the emotions that it may pass on to you as a reader. The linguistic approach is poised and equilibrated, bringing to the printed page a feeling of stability even when the words may seem aggressive or judgmental, and the state of mind shared may be frustration or anxiety, allowing the reader to actually enjoy these poems for their construction as well as for their content.
Furthermore, even though the word Italian appears only twice in the book, and in unusual circumstances (note: “The Italian Presbyterian minister…” and “…the Italian Pentecostal Reverend Mother…”), the whole book feels Italian American through and through, presenting situations that are, if not typical, at the least normal in our community, with an emphasis on family values, love, stubbornness, love of food and traditions, etcetera. Blood Memory is therefore a collection of poems that our readers will certainly love.
BLOOD MEMORY, PROSE POEMS
BY MICHELLE REALE
IMPRINT: Idea Press
PUBLISHING DATE: April 2021
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS # 2021907724