Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mihaela Moscaliuc: Dialogical Poet

If you haven't heard of Mihaela Moscaliuc, hang around the world of words and ideas for a little while and you will. If you've been reading the best literary journals, you have probably already encountered one of her reviews or poems or essays. And now her debut collection of poetry is available from Alice James Books: Father Dirt.

It is said that genius is not merely mastery of one field, but of two, making possible a dialogue between them that creates a third new territory. Such is the accomplishment of Moscaliuc in her poems with their capacity for the narrative as well as the lyrical, historical as well as imaginative reality, a previous life in Romania as well as a present one in New England. In all of it, Moscaliuc is more than a poet of witness, she is a voyeur who compels us to watch, along with her, the daily love-making between experience and language--not just in the bedroom, but in the schoolroom, the bathtub, the graveyard, the kitchen. Listen to this ars poetica that appears early on in section one:


I thicken coffee with chocolate,
language with accented mistranslations,
love with foreign words
oblong and trammeled and plum-brandied.

I like the smell of yesterday's clothes.
It insists we resume where we left off.

But Moscaliuc's poems are not merely the accumulation of a masterly executed prosody of diction in response to experience, or the fashioning of a compelling, yet heart-breaking imaginative reality that marries language and myth. These poems point to a common ground of being, grappling with the big questions and, if not discovering big answers, making new connections that enlarge our capacity to rephrase the questions. Observe the pragmatic underpinnings of the final stanza to "Phonecall From Romania":

"True that you have donuts the size of life preservers, and dogs run around with tails stacked with poppy bagels? Hunger is no good--whatever the priest tells you--doesn't get you closer to God and doesn't make you kinder. I bet God would love me better with a full belly, though I hope never to meet Him, but if I do, that's cool too 'cause I have nothing to tell Him. But I'll say this anyway: hey, Mr., trade you a bone comb (from the finest mare!) for a soft cloud--your homeless beard needs grooming and my hips need a quiet mattress."

Moscaliuc's opening movement satisfies our longing for a poetry that sings its stories of significance, while creating a desire for additional scores.

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