Praise For Blue Positive
"Martha Silano's poems are full of sex and birth and food, mind and body. Their richness of detail makes reading this book like entering a home: there is a bustle to her language as she tries to gather everything she loves. Silano writes, 'I'm surprised how the trees keep themselves/from falling, how mostly stable this sloping, unpredictable earth.' By the end of Blue Positive, I trust both her surprise and her wisdom."
"These are exuberant, humorous poems, bursting with love of language, the body, and deep play. Pregnancy, childbirth, and mothering are central to Blue Positive, and here Silano’s eye is especially fresh and original: 'The cosmos dances, // but an embryo? I see her more / as taking up shop, blow torch in one hand, // jack hammer in the other.' (from Begging to Differ) Harborview is a harrowing poem about post-partum depression, where we learn 'some god’s gotten hold of me.' But Silano shows us how a bright and ultimately optimistic sensibility can overcome disaster. As she tells us in a delightful crown of sonnets written for her son, 'I try to laugh at what I can’t control.' In these fine poems Martha Silano takes us 'over Niagara without the barrel,' to a place where 'Salvaging Just Might Lead to Salvation.'"
—Peter Pereira, author of the award-winning Saying the World
Reviews and Features
Martha Silano Interviewed!
Check out Martha's interview with Writer's Digest's Robert Lee Brewer and her interview with Southeast Review.
Excerpts from Diane Lockward's review of Blue Positive in New Orleans Review 2008
As the cover hints, Silano’s predominant obsession is motherhood. We have in this country a history of motherhood poems going back to Anne Bradstreet, but while Silano might be seen as following this minor tradition, there is nothing traditional or minor about her poems. Surely no poet has ever given us such an inside view of pregnancy or described it with such unique and delightful figures.
In “Begging to Differ” Silano does an about-face and now disputes the idea that pregnancy is nine months of anticipatory joy. “Fat, fucking hooey,” she says to that old myth, then lists the nosebleeds, heartburn, migraines, nausea, and six-month stiff neck she endured. For emphasis, she delivers a volley of alliteration, one of her signature talents: “She didn’t dance; she galloped. She didn’t / do-see-do, hokey-pokey, or hullabaloo; // unhaltingly, she hammered; didn’t divide / but devoured…blow torch in one hand, // jack hammer in the other. Constantly flailing / two feisty fists.” She ushers in the baby on a stream of t and r sounds, telling us that the child remained in utero “till she got too big // to make her turns, to run her rumbling rudders, / till it was time for her to make her raucous, ruby-red debut.”
Silano also confronts that part of pregnancy that until recently women weren’t supposed to talk about or couldn’t talk about because they didn’t know what it was, that is, post-partum depression. In “Crazy” she records the terrifying months that followed the birth of her first child when she was certain she’d “been shot, killed, sent though the long, slow / stove of cremation….” She both reassures and frightens the reader.
Again Silano embraces contrary emotions, later finding herself on the flip side of such despair. In “Song for a Newborn,” one of the collection’s finest poems, she employs the catalog, another of her signature talents, to praise each part of her baby’s precious body. At the same time she deftly juggles a spate of similes. Speaking directly to her “Double Thick Pork Chop,” she says, “Bless your arms which hang, / outstretched, in sleep, / as if conducting an orchestra / a tune I’ll never know. / Bless your capillaries / like the roots of Early Girls, / your large intestine like dozens / of miniature knackwursts.” She ends with a blitz of metaphors: “for now I’ll have to settle, / my Sugar-Cane Showered Scallop, my Swimming Angel, / for your smile which says Braised Chicken, / Cilantro Dumplings, Romaine’s Most Tender Hearts.” Has any baby ever been presented as this delicious?
Another of Silano’s obsessions is the home. She peppers the collection with poems about food—Polish dishes, beans and rice with hot sauce, pears, cabbage, Phad Thai. She brings us right to the table in “Ingredients,” grabbing us first by the ear: “In one ear the crunch of kapusta—in the other the sizzle / of bacala.” And then the nose: “Through one nostril the deep, dark sting // of hot oil meeting garlic—through the other the steam / of cheddar cheese suffusing mashed potato peaks.” And finally, the tongue: “Some nights our burps told tales of halushki… fried with buttery cabbage.…Some nights the basil in pasta siciliana / sweetened our breath till dawn.…”
Clearly this poet revels in language. She seems to find words as scrumptious as her culinary dishes, serving up one feast after another and savoring the strangeness of words, their meanings, their roots, their associations with people, the irony of them, the sounds of them, all of which she captures in “My Words”:
I never liked pachyderm, especially when I learned elephants are anything
but thick-skinned. Ditto to the dowdily galumphing dromedary
with its root in dromad, Greek for swift.
Ones I never considered memorable or strange—
bubble, banana, anemone—bloomed
when my son began to use them
to describe falling snow, a crescent moon,
a cockatiel’s plume. Plum is a terrible
word for a perfect fruit …
Silano beautifully combines tenderness and boldness, gravitas and humor, mastery of craft and invention. Everything in this collection invites us in, then back again. It is full of love and hunger and nourishment and amazement at how baffling, disturbing, and wondrous this life is.
Rhino Review Praises the Rich Detail of these Real-Life Poems
"This book I love for its baby head cover, clear brown eyes staring back from a blue-sky background, and for all the mother, baby, sex, tree, bird, fruit, family, this-is-real-life poems inside, poems with a rollicking feel to them, with a richness of color and detail and food, with lots of ingredients and symptoms -- loose, unwieldy poems and poems finely wrought, like "Crown of Sonnets for a Son," which also allows itself to be as unwieldy as it wants. . ."--from the 2007 review
Blue Positive Dazzles Cranky Reviewer
"There's not enough space here for me to praise more fully Silano's funny, smart, sexy language, her dazzling lists and vocabulary, and the rhythms that sometimes neccessarily break free from punctuation in their headlong rush towards all that wants to be said...Blue Positive is a daring and lovely book..."—From Cranky, Volume 2 issue 1 2006
Extraordinary Exploration of Life and its Connections
"Martha Silano’s new poetry collection centers on life’s stages, and provides insights into pregnancy, food, birth, motherhood, marriage, and family. Though rising from everyday life, her work is far from an ordinary exploration of domesticity. These topics are merely starting places for Silano’s skillful use of language and imaginative leaps between seemingly disparate elements."—From LitRag, issue 20 2006
Two of Martha Silano's poems from Blue Positive were featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily
Getting Kicked by a Fetus" was featured as the poem of the day on Poetry Daily on April 30, 2006. Verse Daily named "Gravitas" its poem of the day on April 10, 2006.
About the Author
Martha Silano received her BA from Grinnell College and her MFA from the University of Washington. Her first book, What the Truth Tastes Like, won the William & Kingman Page Poetry Book Award and was published by Nightshade Press in 1999. Her poems have appeared in the Paris Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, Bellingham Review, Fine Madness, and on Poetry Daily, among others. Nominated twice for a Pushcart prize, Martha teaches at Edmonds and Bellevue Community Colleges.
For more information, see Martha's Web site.