marlene mountain
reviews of mm
book review


Jerry Kilbride review:


I read PISSED OFF POEMS AND CROSS WORDS a few weeks before Chernobyl. After hearing of the disaster on TV I picked the book back up and searched out the following:

3 mile island we've got to go through that again
'what you' don't 'see is what you get'

I've since given up milk for a month or two as low-level radiation has been measured in the supply from Northern California. I like milk, mornings especially with granola, and don't believe the scientists who say the radiation level is not harmful. Surviving in this enlightended age!

PISSED OFF POEMS is about the will to survive amid the dangers we face. They are a series of one-line haiku sequences that were written in four or five months and appear in the book en masse and unedited. Language here goes full circle, beyond poetry to its elemental uses: DANGER, FIRE, EAT! It goes back before that place in time when a distant, hairy ancestor first pointed to a flower or the setting sun as its eyes and brain signaled its tongue to utter a word meaning BEAUTY.

with your guns & drums and drums & guns

without your leg & arm and head
holy war
french govt 'routine nuclear explosion'
a dove falls a hawk falls

Granted, poetry written in response to the beauties of Nature--moon viewing and cherry blossoms--brings meaning to our lives. But what of the poet's responsibility to Nature, what is given back? Marlene expresses her concern and suggests collective responsibility in the following haiku (talk about sabi!):

acid rain less and less i am at one with nature

and asks which one of us will live to witness in the nuclear winter:

old pond a frog rises belly up

We are familiar with the author's commitment to women's issues, and injustices listed in PISSED OFF POEMS confirm that she has done her homework. The CROSS WORDS at the end of the book, repeated page after page in size and shape, suggest the foundation stones of patriarchal societies, and words contained in the puzzles (such as tart, dumbbroad, hooker) also appear in an angry litany on the book's cover. But a spiritual awakening is apparent beneath this anger, an awakening the poet hopes the world will experience:

none of my fingers ring fingers
after love love

With this book in my hands I recall Judy Chicago's DINNER PARTY, Ruth Yarrow's HAIKU AND THE MUSHROOM CLOUD (Modern Haiku, V. XVII, N. 1) and a poem by Marianne Moore, WHAT ARE YEARS? Somehow, Marlene Mountain's SOFT ON NATURE reflects the words of Marianne Moore's long question: "(what) in misfortune, even death, encourages others and in its defeat, stirs the soul to be strong?"

out of a back pack she lives her tipi at night
soon the appalachian trail alone
my thoughts not trees sky but murder rape weapons
   that's what everyone seems to say
   can't let what could happen stop me

autumn darkness my pissed off poems
with or without humans she says earth will live on
somehow some comfort in that
   remember mother (not eve not mary)
   remember our mother mother of us all


Modern Haiku 17:3 1986 USA; Raw Nervz Haiku ------- Canada

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