Sunday, January 15, 2012

Change doesnt stop for broken hearts... The Poetry of Mary Angelina

In 2010 the Burlington, Vermont based painter and poet Mary Angelina released her first book, Cracking Calypso. Written over the course of five years it is one of the most hard hitting and refreshing collections of contemporary poetry I've ever had the pleasure of reading. I spoke with the author about the book and its origins. "I hadn't written anything good in almost seven years" Angelina explained, "I kept trying to write the world's idea of a great poem when suddenly I decided to just write for me. That's when 'American Babel' poured out of me almost in its final form."

Soon after this initial poetic accomplishment the flood gates were open and Mary was on her way to a powerful collection of words. Angelina pulls no punches in her dense and rhythmic verse, tackling issue after issue of the largest scope; war, death, rape, greed, and betrayal. Yet even with such dark and intense subject matter, the book manages to strike a humorous and compassionate tone that reinvigorates a readers faith instead of diminishing it. Take, for example, this portion of the aforementioned 'American Babel'...

If God is real, she's pissed now,
I doubt she meant for this.
Blessed are the forgotten,
Blessed are the meek,
Blessed are the white and wealthy
the other seven days a week.

"In composing the book," Angelina says, "I took the dark, light, rhyme, and non-rhyme and sort of made a mix-tape." It is a delicate thematic balance, which Angelina walks to near perfection. She utilizes newer slam inspired rhythms on the incendiary 'Apathetic Limbo' and places it alongside 'Dystonia', a deeply personal piece done in the ancient villanelle form. "I'm drawn to long, rhythmic poems with a lot of 'umph'. But you can get lost in rhythm. Like reading too much Dr. Seuss or something."

The balance of old and new, cynicism and whimsy, comes from a deeply empathetic place in the author. When asked where that place may be exactly Angelina responds, "My guts! The guts of me and my soul. While writing this book I was dealing with intense spurts of grief. Writing and painting and music were my life. They literally kept me going. So it was also one of the more alive times in my life."

Alive indeed. This book is a vibrant and startling collection that is not to be ignored. Cracking Calypso is published by Star Chamber Press and is currently available for purchase on

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