|Marsha de la O|
I had the pleasure of interviewing Marsha de la O in Ventura a few weeks ago. After the scandal in the New York Times over a White poet using a Chinese name to get his work published, Marsha wanted to make sure La Bloga knew she was not Latina, but had kept her name from a previous marriage. I've admired Marsha's poetry for several years and I've always assumed she was Chicana like me. I assured her that La Bloga readers would be grateful to hear about an exceptional, award-winning poet who was once a bilingual teacher and a former member of CABE, California Association for Bilingual Education.
Marsha arrived at poetry through prose in the form of vignettes. However, when a stranger came up to her and said, 'You are the true poet,' she allowed herself to believe him and even earned an MFA in poetry from Vermont College. She is an intuitive poet. She shared her poeming process with La Bloga:
"I get a fringe of an idea, the brush of a feather, that has possibility. I write a lot of words or I go to a thesaurus. I close the computer so I don't see it. If I'm looking at it, I'm criticizing it."When her new book, Antidote for Night was nominated for the 2015 Isabella Gardner Poetry Award by Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Marsha was grateful for the acknowledgement, but didn't think she had a chance of winning. "I thought my work was behind the times, too narrative, and that I was too old," she said. "I owned the book of the previous winner and she looked so young. I didn't expect anything so good to happen to me."
It's surprising to hear how humble Marsha de la O is. Her first book, Black Hope (1997), won the New Issues Poetry Prize from the University of Western Michigan and a Small Press Editor's Choice Award. Last year, Mariano Zaro, interviewed Marsha for the Poetry L.A interview Series. There's no doubt her third book will be another success. In fact, BOA has the first option rights and Marsha says she is determined to turn in an even better manuscript, lucky for us poetry enthusiasts. Marsha promises to change things up for her next book.
"I want to deal with the part of poetry that is magic. How magic always operates from words and incantations. Story is what I do best, but I want to explore incantation. I'd like to be able to cast a spell."I'm positive La Bloga readers will be enchanted by Marsha de la O's poetry. Some might be inspired to send a couple of poems to the Literary Journal she and her husband Phil Taggert produce, Askew. Next year marks the 10th anniversary of Askew. As an editor Marsha values the surprise effect of poetry. Send your best work to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Askew, P.O. Box 559, Ventura, CA 93002. Hint. Meet the publishers and editors of Askew at the weekly Ventura Poetry series, hosted by Phil Taggert at the EP Foster Library in the Topping Room, every Thursday at 7:30 pm 651 E. Main Street, Ventura, CA.
A sample of Marsha de la O's poetry and a video link to her reading and upcoming readings:
Vacuuming chrome and shadow, hot
air blowing, resting on one knee to extend
the long neck beneath the settee while
it sucks and roars and lurches across the shag
in its hopeless lumbering way, long whipcord
tail curving behind. I look at my face
in the window thinking so this is how
she looks cleaning house. The air is a white
fist. We all breathe open-mouthed, our chests
rise and fall like dogs. I‘m the same
inside and out, all the pixels behind my eyes
making test patterns. I don‘t remember
when my voice took on its bitterness,
maybe it was the frozen juice in plastic
pitchers, little green oranges giving Florida
the lie. One morning it was there.
Strange how much silence can fit inside
a roar. And the nuzzle of this yearning
in my palm licking my hand. I can
see it now in the raveled threads
the spiders float off the walls, on-screen
the moisture sheen on the upper lip
of the kidnapped girl, the last one left
on the bus with terrorists. What an effort
the vacuum makes to take it in, straining
to ingest sand and dog hair, fishing
line and bits of paper that flutter off
the ends of straws, the anger in the bed
clothes and rough cotton towels. I hear
it faintly all the time, even when it‘s turned
off. In the morning when the first birds
carol school hymns and the mocker
does his take on the robin, it starts up, dull
and droning at another level like another
woman with veined legs in another
house who can‘t stop running the vacuum
with all its subtle attachments.
video link to Marsha's video of her poem, Summer
November Readings for Marsha de la O
Poetry by the Sea takes place Nov. 8th at 3:00 at Malibu United Methodist Church located at 30128 Morning View Drive. It is a public event and admission is free.
The CSUN Reading will take place Nov. 10th at 7:30 in the Reading Room at CSUN. Primarily for students in the MFA program in poetry and will feature poets from the program who have recently published books, as well as me. The public is welcome and admission is free.
San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival website is www.languageofthesoul.org