More than a playful collection of erotic, irreverent, rebellious
poetry--while Antarctica is all of these things--Patti
Sirens opens a window to a remarkable inner life of hard-won
wisdom. Let her emotionally searing imagery convince you that
viewing love and loss with candor and compassion can transform
the most formidable frozen wasteland.
This debut volume is a MUST READ for anyone interested in women's
studies, or poetry of year 2000.
"Edgy and compelling, these poems take us on a trip
of twists and curves through Sirens' world, a minefield of raw
emotion and surprises, jagged with pain, wry humor, intense sensuality,
and sensitive responses to beauty, honed by a keen intelligence.
A trip well worth taking."
Maude Meehan, author
Washing the Stones: Selected Poetry 1975-1995
Antarctica: Poetry by Patti Sirens
A Book Review by Joanne James
Patti Sirens' new book of poetry, Antarctica, is a
test of faith, a one-night stand, an unrelenting vision of the
world you thought you knew. Here, the world is not a familiar,
mundane, surface. In the title poem, "Antarctica" she
demands, "look me in the eye when I'm speaking to you."
Once you pick up this book, you wont' dare look away.
Whether you've lived in Santa Cruz a few months or a lifetime,
Sirens' poetry will challenge you to see this city through new
eyes,the eyes of a Rebel Angel: "highway one veers away
from the sea/snaking valley and river's jugular/church chimes
charm the dreamer/save the sailor/drown the savior" ("Barn
The Rebel Angel lineage of poetry descends from an unbroken line
of risk-takers and poet-prophets such as William Blake, Allen
Ginsberg, Alice Notley, and Eileen Myles. This is the poetry
I hunger for. This is necessary magic.
In Sirens' poem "Odyssea," we are given what we
need to know "how to talk heron and crow and coax the wildflowers
from the ground they will listen to your stories and love you
for your silences/they will remind you that you are wild and
holy." There is the possibility of communication with what
is natural and wise in the world(s) surrounding this one. I found
that "Antarctica" is a metaphor for both the earth
and the inner self; all those vast uninhabitable places where
we find ourselves lost and without sustenance. We also long for
these places as they force us to meet a deeper truth. This is
wilderness that has its own presence and powers and is indifferent
to our individual survival.
Sometimes there are no answers; only memories, regrets or
sex and dreams and desire. This is honest poetry; no promises
of redemption unless you are in the process of reinventing the
world. "In the photo we are smiling but really our hearts
were tearing apart like when you slice open a piece of fruit
and you pull the halves away from the pit how what is whole suddenly
finds something hollow in itself" (Dead Wallendas").
At the same time, Sirens is wryly humorous in poems such as,
"The Telephone Rang," "Courage," and "All
There Is." This collection finds a vital balance that will
appeal to poetry lovers, lovers of language, and new converts.
And if you've heard Patti Sirens' performance of her work, you'll
be glad, as I was, to find a full collection of poetry that carries
its power on the page as well as one the stage.
"Amelia's Last Flight" is an invocation and a prophecy,
"I believed there were angels/creatures of light who came
from the stars/lived in the wet grass/crawled through the night
grass/seeing with feral eyes/who were proud in god's eyes and
maybe god's themselves." With the repetition if "grass
grass": and "eyes, eyes" it is as if an ancient
chant is summoning strength for the journey. This is the way
to enter the next millennium. Are you going to creep into the
future? Or are you going to put on your black boots and create
revolution? Patti Sirens' book, Antarctica, is the initiation
you've been waiting for.
© 1998 Joanne James
Joanne James is a local poet and student of creative writing
and philosophy through the University of Iowa, Iowa City.
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