Exploring Memory, Creating Myth, Providing Sustenance: Holly Prado takes us from one to the next
by Sanora Bartels
Holly Prado’s latest book of poetry released by Cahuenga Press, from one to the next takes us on a journey from daily transition and adjustments to fractured dreams of mother and memory and finally eases us into a guarded, but hopeful mythology. The book is comprised of three sections starkly different in style but cohesive in their quest for meaning.
The first section is also the book’s title from one to the next and uses the phases of the moon to light our path. It begins with the full moon in Taurus/Scorpio which takes place in autumn, the year is winding down and I am reminded, as an artist in Los Angeles, of how one begins to worry toward the end of the year when production slows down and the city goes to sleep, no jobs, no prospects until January (in these economic times, now, a very real worry for more than just the production community). Prado addresses this in The Next Day the Santa Anas. The piece speaks of the strain of hard times during Los Angeles’ tense Santa Ana season:
if we wanted ease
we wouldn’t live here
cracked skin especially on my thumbs
and little cuts
The piece eases though as Prado reflects on small comforts and in so doing is able to comfort her husband:
the new sweaters
two of them
are nice —
I earned the money
as I always do.
“don’t worry don’t worry”
I tell him
earlier than usual at night
These poems are quiet and fluid and acknowledge what it is to be present, to be established in being, to be human on this earth. The Visionary Yet Actual illustrates this beautifully:
moon above my head this Sunday morning
perfectly visible but
startling as if I’ve never seen it before
as if this is the first month
The quiet observation of life’s transitions gives over to stark snatches of memory in branch the book’s second section. When I read branch, I felt an overwhelming sadness that came as much from the memory of leaves, as actual leavings. The poems reach along the family tree toward the memory of mother whose branch was cut too soon. One of the most evocative pieces for me is The Skirt, two simple words, one stanza:
Standing alone, I suppose it could be open to criticism as simply visual and too cryptic for any emotional understanding, but within the section it serves as a bridge. It is mother’s skirt and that skirt is a memory of spring and wind and at its essence, life. That skirt evolves into a skirt with gold coins at its hem and the life of the gypsy daughter who eventually learns how to stop looking for meaning in loss and turns instead to the meaning in what is left us. The section ends with Tonight:
hand me the road downward
I look up one branch
sprouts more branches
I found this section incredibly moving and the pulse of it is quick, moving from one image to the next, the way one dreams. These images begin to plant the seeds of mythology that will come to fruition in the final section.
In celery, the third section of Prado’s book, the narrative poems address our need for mythology and divine interpretation of the mundane, daily life, although with her pragmatic lyricism, Prado, herself, would probably deny the latter. The title is taken from the appearance on the final day of the Chinese New Year of an old woman giving out celery to the celebrants. Prado provides the explanation in the piece Sweater:
To bring us back to our human senses, the story says that on the fifteenth day of the Chinese New Year, it’s time for an old woman to greet us with celery, a basketful, to take away the sugar of ecstasy, to ease us back into our vegetable feet –
She reminds us that….we’re on a planet which sustains and values its creatures –
Prado’s narrative work in this section re-affirms that reminder as in Basket:
One of us falters, the rest leap in – skill, advice, prayer, cooking – to dissolve pain, restore, create another beginning. The potency of physical rescue has nothing to do with comfort. It pushes us: cellular inheritance, molecular faith. Its speed is the realization that death stands behind us – so hurry.
The piece goes on to speak of nature’s speed but there is actually a slow, delicious quality to all of the narrative poems. As if Prado were weaving a documentary using time-lapse photography. This time-lapse allows us a glimpse at the inhabited space between just formed memories of a year taking shape as in Sunflower:
…the charm of meat and green vegetables and cool wine….food urging our bodies toward the golden curves of squash, the shape of winter made best by long, slow cooking.
But it is not just about physical sustenance. These pieces, like those in from one to the next and branch are seeking the thread, the through line that ties our individual stories and collective consciousness together. In the final piece, Season, Prado addresses the subject directly and effectively. She lists what she has collected and written about over the course of the year and then:
These small mirrors matter because they’re the emblems through which my myth creates itself, a myth joining the celery woman’s, or any culture’s imaginative truth. …invisibly, it thickens our living texture. Everybody adds to this. Everybody who speaks, writes and wonders.
With this, Prado embraces her readers and brings them into her gypsy camp to tell their stories and warm their hands. Through her use of different styles in the book, Prado is a master storyteller but you come away with the feeling that there is room for us all. from one to the next not only affirms the importance of language and style but also of the narrators themselves.
You can purchase from one to the next at http://www.CahuengaPress.com.
If you purchase the book, I would love to know what you think, so please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.