This month, we’re excited to release Crow Mercies by Penelope Scambly Schott. I was personally very drawn to this manuscript early in the production process. Schott’s poetry has a magical realism quality to it that I admire in fiction authors like Juan Rulfo, Gabriel García Márquez, and Toni Morrison (also, Kathleen Alcalá, who published this fantastic book), but that unusual to find in the contemporary poetry of the Pacific Northwest. Her imaginative narratives push the boundaries of what is metaphor and what is description, to a place that my “poetry gut” desperately wants to go.
My favorite poem, “Holes in the World” is a good example of what I mean by this. In other poems, her mother is a Calypso Orchid, a homeless woman lives in someone’s closet, and the speaker sits with an ancient Croatian woman, but in “Holes in the World,” Schott’s subject is a bear husband.
She starts off with an italicized section that establishes our interconnectivity, “breath from the mouth/ blood from the womb // vertebrae of dead whales / reamed by the seas.”
In the verse that follows, the speaker is taken by a bear husband “to wive/ and we mated in a cave.” The poem is broken into couplets to better illustrate this coupling of nature and human, and freedom and captivity.
I tell my husband the bear
I am not you
This, I explain is the source
of our lonesomeness
paw to paw
and the air between us.
It’s writing that dares to venture into the strange and the magical that is brave enough to say something real. While Schott’s writing is still fairly linear and deeply rooted in narratives, her subjects and imaginative leaps twist the experience of the reader in surprising ways.
While I tend to think of Schott’s work as magical realism, Poet Peter Sears in this blurb calls it surrealism. How would you classify Schott’s work? Or, does her poetry resist this kind of categorization?
Remember, all month Crow Mercies is 20% off and has free shipping. Don’t miss your chance to read it for yourself!
–Rebecca Olson, Assistant Editor