Writtenduring the last five years of the poet’s father’s life, Creature is a book about love, destruction, and the self, all standing in relation to family and the natural world. The poems themselves try to move toward what can’t be said by finding connection with other life forms: hawks, hummingbirds, pelicans, lizards, horses, ravens, squid. By moving past linguistic walls into otherness, words become proximate to mystery and inhabit territory where expanses open and embodiment is always on the verge of transformation.
Marsha de la O portrays poppies that bloom after wildfires, a child born blue ‘like Krishna,’ a father who died ‘as petals began to brown.’ These are psalms of grief and labor for time passing, ones that sing in multiple registers to remind us that life, in the face of many oppressions, continues, resists, and grows despite anything.
Marsha de la O’s splendid Creature brims with the wild force these poems seek to track, a holiness lying in ‘needles / in shards’ of brokenness. In poem after exquisite poem De la O turns to that ineffable force as a lens that transfigures the pain of the human condition and discloses that ‘brokenness is made of breath, / blue wash of twilight, a glimmering / spread of wings.’
To read Marsha de la O’s Creature is to be immersed in timescapes of forest, canyon, and sea where the moment is both ancient and elongated, where language becomes world, suddenly tangible and sensate. Here is the rare gift that calls readers to remember in so many directions at once and makes them feel more whole, more here. Intuitive, wise, vigorous, deep of earth and heart, these pages pulse with ‘the life force whose name is creature.’ I am mesmerized.
In Creature, de la O’s rhetorical constructions are faceted, heart-changing things, urgent glimpses into the mythologies of family love and our dramatically intimate relationship with nature over time. Creature doesn’t engage familiar ironies: de la O’s statements probe; her questions posit change. Restless chance is especially vibratory in her hands. The elegies engage rather than simply present life’s insistent, ingenious push toward death, ‘our ritual for vanishing,’ until each story is annealed—for a moment only—and made holy.
Marsha de la O is a lecturer in the English Department at California State University, Channel Islands, where she teaches poetry and creative writing. She is the author of Every Ravening Thing, Antidote for Night, and Black Hope. Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker, The Slowdown, and many journals, and she is a recipient of the Morton Marcus Poetry Prize. She lives with her husband in Ventura, California, where they founded the Ventura County Poetry Project to support local poetry.