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SHE BE:

Jennifer Matthews reviews Tina Pisco's début collection

 

 

 

Jennifer Matthews photo

Jennifer Matthews was born in Missouri (USA) and has lived Ireland since 2003. Her poetry has been published in Mslexia, Revival, Necessary Fiction and Poetry Salzburg, and anthologised in Dedalus's collection of immigrant poetry in Ireland, Landing Places (2010). She has read her work at the the Heaventree Poetry Festival (Coventry, UK) and as a guest poet with 'Catch the Moon' (Cork, Ireland). Poems are forthcoming in Foma and Fontenelles and Cork Literary Review.

 

 

 

 

She Be by Tina Pisco

She Be

Tina Pisco

(Bradshaw Books, 2010)

ISBN: 978-1-905374-18-2

€12 paperback

 

Buy from Bradshaw

 

Recently both Tina Pisco and I were invited to join O’Bheal’s ‘Roaming Poets’ who would be doing readings on the streets of Cork during the World Book Festival. Typical to form, I shied away from the challenge whereas she gave a hearty laugh and said she’d bring a megaphone and a soapbox if they’d let her. This is Pisco through and through: she’s funny, confident, gregarious, and believes passionately in what she has to say. Something unique about her is that her artistic expression manifests itself in nearly every medium one could imagine. She sings in a blues band; runs writing workshops; has written fiction, memoirs and cookbooks; and even designed the collaged cover of her first collection of poetry, She Be, from Bradshaw Books.

            She Be draws from the poetic tradition of Maya Angelou (author of ‘Phenomenal Woman’) and Lucille Clifton (author of ‘Homage to My Hips’), which uses conversational, accessible language to enlighten, empower or raise the consciousness of the reader about women’s lives. Her collection has a similar approach to her performances with poetry group Catch the Moon, in that both are organised by themes. She Be is divided into ‘Woman’, ‘Thinker’, ‘Lover’ and ‘Writer’. 

            I enjoyed that the poems were informed by feminism, but acknowledged the modern woman’s real-life predicament of having the family’s laundry to deal with despite their intellectual and creative dreams. In ‘DOGFOODCATFOOD’, “I write more shopping lists /than poems. I write them every day--/ shopping lists, not poems.” In ‘Bum Deal’, the writer realises what a fantastic resource having a wife would be (a sentiment echoed in many of my own conversations with other female poets). As the wise know, poems give you questions, not answers.

             Alongside these wry pieces are praise and advice poems, whose aims are to inspire and motivate. Although they are often written directly to a specific person (her daughters, friends or partner), they don’t exclude the reader and bring in enough artistry to elevate the work to poetry. For example, ‘Aller Simple’ for her daughter Amelia, “I bought a one-way ticket/ for the first time in my life. / Aller Simple. A simple go./ and sent you on your way--” The sense of direction in the piece is powerful, and her carefully chosen words paint a much larger portrait of their relationship. (It should be mentioned that Pisco is a polyglot, and French and Spanish are used as a sort of spice throughout her work, contributing to her unique voice.) A couple of the praise/advice pieces (such as ‘Ten Steps to Stay Sane’) employ few images or metaphors and very spare language, which prompts the question, are they poems or warm letters to a friend? As a reader I was as happy with her ‘warm letters’ as I was with her poem-y poems, because of their emotionally moving qualities.

            Saying this, She Be, has a menagerie of work which is adventurous with form. Pisco gives us list poems, prose poems, centos, long poems and haiku-like short poems. Her successful villanelle, ‘The Strap Hangs Ready by the Door’, takes advantage of the form’s mulling quality and explores the experience of guilt and betrayal:

           

            Under the covers of bed, books and rhymes

            Rooting out sins before they grow

            Searching for the tell-tale signs

           

            Spitting the fruit and eating the rind

            Bitter thoughts in every swallow

            Suspicion haunts the guilty mind …

 

            Although Pisco’s work moves between the worlds of page and performance poets, it’s through the spoken word that she comes alive. Her poems demand to be read out loud. I believe she’d agree with me on this point, as her poem ‘Saltimbanques’ declares “Fuck Art./ Let’s Dance!” Her words shimmy and wink, and are great fun to spend time with. Tina Pisco is one of the few poets writing today who’ll have you laughing out loud as you read, which is a true gift. 

 

 

©2011 Jennifer Matthews

 

 

 

 

Author Links

 

Matthews poems at Poetry International Web

Yank Refugee in the PRC (blog)

Other reviews by Jennifer Matthews in Southword

 

 

 

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