Writing in the Ether is less a poetry book and more a private conversation you feel honored to have shared with you. Unlike most books of poems, this one has a central character.
It only takes a few pages to feel as if your closest friend is confiding you, holding nothing back, and handing you the treasures and trials of her life. She is sharing her story, her family’s story, in vivid details so much so that you think you might have been there with her too.
You can feel the essence of her in the room with you as you read. You should be sipping wine together or sharing a pot of coffee. You know what she’s saying is important, personal; that no one should over hear this and that you should never share with anyone what she’s shared with you. That’s where you go reading Writing in the Ether. It takes you to a place with a character you care about and in return, you feel as if that character cares about you too.
Here are two poems from Writing in the Ether:
Finding You in Smoke
Mother, if I could summon you back
I’d sit with you at my morning table
prepare strong coffee the way you like
place an ashtray near because you’ll
want to smoke after this long time away.
I’d finally insist that my eyes, replicas
of your hazel-green-framed-in-auburn
see beyond what I needed from you
slide down your color-streaked coronas
and slip through
like Alice chasing rabbits. I’d
fall into your girlhood, snuggle up close
smell your skin, shampoo, interlock fingers.
We’d whisper like best friends, sisters
and then you could tell me your secrets
the ones that walk backward, scream at night
the ones that kept you away from me
the ones you burned with 60 years of cigarettes
that killed you anyway.
The Girl Who Made Them
In the closet of my room, the long, slanted roofline
plastered white was a perfect canvas for sunflower suns,
psychedelic peace signs, mottled self-portraits, and mindscapes.
The walls, tablets for tortured free verse
on teenage love, existential loneliness, fists against
Vietnam and Kent State.
E. E. Cummings, Ferlinghetti, Peter Max, and too much
van Gogh influence, all in oil-based pastels that
“No matter how many damn times I painted,”
“it all bled through.”
Eighteen years later, a sixteen-year-old
in my creative writing class says,
“We’re renting this house. In the closet of my room there’s all
this cool stuff, art and poems like frescoes in an old church,”
and she writes a poem to the girl who made them.
Date Published: December 2018
Publisher’s Book Description:
The poems and short prose in Catherine Arra’s Writing in the Ether were born from the connective tissue of memory, the bones of the past, and the spirit that insists not only upon seeing and remembering, but upon reconciling “the holy and the unholy” to embrace what is.
Here is a story of a girl growing up in the 1960s with a mysteriously elusive mother, a second-generation immigrant father, and her immigrant grandparents living next door. At the center of the collection is a desire to reach back for clarity and continuity that becomes, in itself, an act of writing in the ether.
Through an exploration into her own story, Arra invites each of us to go back and become “forever the sentinel” on the doorstep of our history, to find the sweetest joys, the most devastating betrayals, and in doing so, mark each with a cross, a prayer, and perhaps a poem, because, as Arra writes, “Love eats you, and this is the only way home.”
About the Poet:
Catherine Arra is a former high school English and writing teacher. Since leaving the classroom in 2012, her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous literary journals online and in print, and in several anthologies. She is the author of three chapbooks, Slamming & Splitting (Red Ochre Press, 2014), Loving from the Backbone (Flutter Press, 2015), and Tales of Intrigue & Plumage (FutureCycle Press, 2017). Writing in the Ether is her first full-length collection. Arra is a native of the Hudson Valley in upstate New York, where she lives most of the year, teaches part-time, and facilitates local writing groups. In winters she migrates to the Space Coast of Florida.
Find her at www.catherinearra.com
“Ether may be the fifth element, but poet-memoirist Catherine Arra grounds her alchemical work in the flame of the forge, toe-licking saltwater, radiant air, and earthbound ash. “There is a text within every text,” this born storyteller assures us, turning her gaze from her 1960s childhood to mismatched parents later in life, then back to her immigrant grandparents and Sicilian forebears. Arra’s words pulse with a soft incandescence, like fireflies, or sparks from a distant volcano.” —Nina Shengold
“Catherine Arra “gathers cracks in time like pick-up sticks,” and offers them to us as a shared memory. Tender yet honest, these poems capture the essence of self-discovery through fierce images of both nature and innocence.” —Lisa St. John
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