Sleeping Things. Holly Iglesias. Press 53. Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 2018.
A prodigious list of appearances in a wide variety of literary magazines/journals speaks to the authoritative voice Holly Iglesias inhabits throughout Sleeping Things. For people of my generation she has completely captured the zeitgeist of our times.
These poems bristle with the unbearable lightness of our sunshine youths and the undertoad of our modern indifference.
These prose poems bruise-blossom off of the page like a smart mouthed poetry patter raconteur. Holly Iglesias makes it all look too easy. As though just anyone could weave this tight and enticing fabric from the gossamer of scar and memory.
The Love There That's Sleeping
A Charlie Brown Christmas soothed us like it once
soothed my parents, who beckoned their children to
the couch to ingest the cartoon as an antidote to acid
rock. Thirty years later, they were gone, their stories
buried with them on a bluff above the river. The story
to bury with me will be that of scribbling a chord
progression from The White Album over and over on
the back of a grocery list, the pattern a sedative to dull
the news of the death of a boy I loved by his own
hand during the Bob Hope Bicentennial Special.
Holly Iglesias quotes good old Adam Zagajewski to get our engines started with Sleeping Things.
In the past, we had faith in invisible
things, in shadows and their shadows
Today's book of poetry can be slow on the uptake, but we like Zagajewski (Milo, our head tech, went to the stacks and came back with Tremor - Selected Poems and Without End - New and Selected Poems by great Polish poet, for a reminder/refresher.).
As the weather in Ottawa has been a little intense the last week or so, a couple of nights ago the temperature was -40C with windchill. That's cold anywhere. The roads are very icy because the cold we've just had has turned the ice to cement. And we've had some serious snow fall. So when Iglesias takes the reader to Miami, to Cuba, Today's book of poetry was completely up for that.
Today's book of poetry has been a tourist in Cuba but Iglesias has intimate knowledge, her poems are honest, experienced, true.
On saintless days, those sad ellipses on the church
calendar, we pray to pure space, that place where the
future blooms, our mortal souls loosed into a cool blue
void, each isolate, the Mystical Body reduced to parts—
ear, thumb, thigh—then flung into orbit with the
monkeys and cosmonauts. Language freed from
schoolbooks—Run and see! Oh, run and see!—pages
disintegrating at the speed of light.
This morning's read was a little quieter than usual, some of our regular gang are awol, others absent without leave. Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, liked the poems of Holly Iglesias so much that she insisted on doing the reading solo. The rest of us hunkered down in the soft chairs and couches, and let Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, do her Holly Iglesias thing.
It was splendid. Kathryn did Holly Iglesias proud. And there's nothing quite like having good poetry read to you. Of course Iglesias gave Kathryn all the ammunition she needed to blow us all away.
Today's book of poetry snacked on Sleeping Things for a couple of days, taking quick hits and long glances. We were always rewarded.
First a February tornado, prepping the area as though
it were a surgical field, when the wrecking balls and
bulldozers shoving away the rubble that once had been
sweet shop shoe shop barber shop millinery grocery
tavern church school tenement house doctor's office
dentist's office funeral parlor chili parlor bakery union
hall beauty salon drugstore five thousand structures
twenty thousand souls set again upon the migrant's
path carts piled with quilts and chairs and pots and
pans and cardboard boxes of photographs and
baptismal records the highway cutting through what
had been their neighborhood Novas Bel-Airs
Fleetwoods Falcons Galaxies Country Squires choking
the lanes the air fouled with exhaust.
Sleeping Things is infinitely more interesting than my meagre powers of description. But you regular readers of Today's book of poetry know what cooks in my kitchen.
Holly Iglesias burns.
And if you check out the blurbs below, our southern correspondent, dear friend and poetry Saint, David Clewell, adds to the chorus of those who have read and adored Iglesias.
ABOUT THE AUTHORHolly Iglesias is the author of two poetry collections, Souvenirs of a Sunken World and Angles of Approach, and a critical work, Boxing Inside the Box: Women’s Prose Poetry. She has taught at University of North Carolina-Asheville and University of Miami, focusing on documentary and archival poetry, and translated the work of Cuban poet, Caridad Atencio. She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Cultural Council, the Edward Albee Foundation, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Her poems have appeared in many journals and in anthologies such as The House of Your Dreams: an International Collection of Prose Poetry,Nothing to Declare: a Guide to the Flash Sequence, The Best of the Prose Poem,and Sweeping Beauty: Contemporary American Women Poets Do Housework.
BLURBSIf you are a writer in want of dynamite material, it really helps if you grew up in a white bread Midwestern suburb and were taught by nuns (“Each night I pray one Hail Mary for good grades, one for a vocation, and one for miniature golf”), and as a young adult found yourself embedded in a refugee community, trapped in the middle of the culture wars. The threat of obliteration is a theme here, whether by air-raid or terrorist bomb or the conditions of exile. We may be, as the author claims, “a mere speck in the cosmos,” but in her hands, even a mere speck contains multitudes. Holly Iglesias’ Sleeping Things is a crowning achievement from one of our most wry, incisive poets—¡Perfecto!
—Madeleine Blais, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of To the New Owners: a Martha's Vineyard Memoir
Sleeping Things is luminous, marvelously succinct, and always engaging. Iglesias renders the spectacle of growing up not with reflexive, all-too-easy nostalgia but with clear-eyed affection, meticulous precision and gusto, giving day-to-day incidents and reclaimed details of that hopeful, rambunctious Cold War era a sense of delightful enterprise and luster. This new book is a refreshingly artful, savvy meditation on the past, rife with compassion and humor, one to celebrate, savor, and enjoy!
— Cyrus Cassells, author of The Crossed-out Swastika
With stubborn joy, Iglesias refuses to let sleeping things lie, and we as readers are reawakened to why such human reclamation is so absolutely consequential. Whether turning her attention to Catholic grade school Cold War days where “students pray to pure space, that place where the future blooms,” the Cuban community in Miami conjuring an island that seems almost imaginary, or the glimpse of a younger self sipping coffee in Spain “dressed as the girl in Dylan’s song who never stumbles, who’s got no place to fall,” Iglesias unfailingly finds the pitch-perfect, sonic delight that only poetry can provide.
—David Clewell, author of Taken Somehow by Surprise
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