Upon first reading Ellen Watson's translations of Adelia Prado's poems comprising The Alphabet in the Park, what was astonishing to me was not that they are full of appetites of the flesh that seek the face of God, but that all of Prado's disparate, overlapping, contradictory, obsessive, intertwining impulses seem to appear in each poem. Each one is a mini-song of herself on speed. I am reminded of Whitman's "Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself. (I am large and I contain multitudes.)"
Although Prado is a practicing Catholic, rather than looking for inspiration or revelation from above, each of Prado's poems are tightly packed singularities, exploding their carnality into the face of God with a "big bang"--an antithesis to the incarnation--"The Word made flesh"--creating an "excarnation," making Flesh itself The Word, and making God the better for it. Over and over in The Alphabet in the Park, Prado's poems risk challenging traditional faith, as she does in "Guide":
Poetry will save me.
I feel uneasy saying this, since only Jesus
is Saviour, as a man inscribed
(of his own free will)
on the back of the souvenir crucifix he brought home
from a pilgrimage to Congonhas.
But by the end of poem, rather than destroying faith, her assault has transformed itself (as is most often the case) into a radically new proclamation:
Poetry will save me. I won't tell this to the four winds,
because I'm frightened of experts, excommunication,
afraid of shocking the fainthearted. But not of God.
What is poetry, if not His face touched
by the brutality of things?
Poetry and faith are the same with Prado. They entail bringing everything from the body and the world which she has been told all of her life that she must leave behind on her spiritual pilgrimage: her appetites, her doubts, her nicotene-stained fingers, her earth-stained hands. And, as well, she brings to poetry a confused God:
From inside geometry
God looks at me and I am terrified.
He makes the incubus descend on me.
I yell for Mama,
I hide behind the door
where Papa hangs his dirty shirt;
they give me sugar water to calm me,
I speak the words of prayers.
But there's another way:
if I sense He's peeking at me,
I think about brands of cigarettes,
I think about a man in a red cape going out
in the middle of the night to worship the Blessed Sacrament,
I think about hand-rolled tobacco, train whistles, a farm woman
with a basket of "pequi" fruit all aroma and yellow.
Before he knows it, there I am in His lap.
I pull on His white beard.
He throws me the ball of the world,
I throw it back.
My favorite poem of Prado's is "Dysrhythmia." I admire it for its prosody of disjunction and meld--do I contradict myself? Then very well! Listen to its opening lines that climax with a statement that might jar both "sinner" and "saint" alike!
Old people spit with absolutely no finesse
and bicycles bully traffic on the sidewalk.
The unknown poet waits for criticism
and reads his verses three times a day
like a monk with his book of hours.
The brush got old and no longer brushes.
Right now what's important
is to untangle the hair.
We give birth to life between our legs
and go on talking about it till the end,
few of us understanding:
it's the soul that's erotic.
Adelia Prado: Poet Excarnate. Poet of the flesh made into "The Word."
Monday, November 19, 2012
Adelia Prado: Poet of "Excarnation!"
was born in the Midwest, grew up in New Mexico, and has lived in the San Francisco bay area for two decades. Terry's work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in numerous literary journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets 2012, Crab Orchard Review, Green Mountains Review, Great River Review, New Millennium Writings, and The Comstock Review. His work has garnered six Pushcart Prize nominations. He is the winner of the 2014 Crab Orchard Review Special Issue Feature Award in Poetry. His chapbook, Altar Call, was a winner in the the 2013 San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival, and appears in the Anthology, Diesel. His chapbook, If They Have Ears to Hear, won the 2012 Copperdome Poetry Chapbook Contest, and is available from Southeast Missouri State University Press. His first full-length collection of poems, In This Room (CW Books, 2016), is now available, and his second, Dharma Rain, was released by Saint Julian Press in October of 2016. Terry is a 2008 poetry MFA graduate of New England College, and a free-lance poetry consultant. Terry is the sixth Poet Laureate of Marin County California. For more information about him and his work see www.terrylucas.com