Poetry: Only More So
By Millicent Borges Accardi
Salmon Poetry, available on Amazon.
Millicent Borges Accardi identifies as Portuguese-American, and many of her poems in Only More So reflect questions of identity in the broadest sense. There are the obvious references to a father who “never passed on/ your secrets,” a daughter who is “never sure which accent to/ migrate towards.” She also explores what it means to be a citizen of the world through the use of persona poems, where women “survive by owning air,” and “sit/in the darkness under/until you have/become the earth.” The poem, "After She Got Her Nose Fixed" opens with the line “She looked like Lena Horne.” It isn’t until the fourth stanza, the middle of the poem, that the reader realizes the “she” is a prostitute. Accardi manages this subtlety in many of her narrative poems. She doesn’t slam the subject in the reader’s face, but leaves it on the page to be discovered and pondered. Her observations about people and events are so keen and deeply felt that she can write poetry of witness without technically being present during the event.
Accardi has received several fellowships for her poetry, including a Fulbright. One of the first things I noticed about this collection is that there are no sections. I admit to frequently feeling perplexed by sections, in that I can’t always recognize how they are determined. These poems fit so well together, one flowing into the next, with reflected images, words, and subjects connecting them.
My routine in reading a single author poetry collection is to read two or three poems, then let them simmer. I found this essential while reading Only More So. In a 2016 interview in Tupelo Quarterly, Accardi states “my book is not built around a theme, per say. Only More So is a voice. The thread is the female voice: WWII, racism, Vietnam, 911, prostitution, cancer, injustice, poverty, struggles.” Admittedly heavy, significant topics, and Accardi utilizes the tautness of poetry to address them. Several of these poems are well-executed list poems, including "Under Different Conditions":
They say once you have it
it does not go away, like a thirst
for liquor, a child, intelligence,
an abusive hand, a talent with
words, blindness, poverty,
a green thumb, perfect pitch.
Read these poems out loud. Accardi’s talent at word choices may not be as evident on the page, but in speaking her poems, it becomes easier to see and hear how skillfully the words are strung together. In the stanza quoted above, pay attention to the “l” sounds: like, liquor, child, intelligence, talent, blindness.
One of my mantras is the Santayana quote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." To be reminded of past events is vitally important if the world is ever to learn from them. Although many of these poems deal with difficult, uncomfortable subjects, women are portrayed as survivors, not victims. “Only the dead have seen the end of the war” is another crucial Santayana quote. The poem, "Ciscenje Prostora (Ethnic Cleansing)" closes with these lines, including a brilliant line break:
she thinks not of peace, but of surviving
the winter, of outlasting the enemy, of winning.
Accardi's newest book speaks for women everywhere; her voice is a necessary one, don't sleep on her.
Nina Bennett is a healthcare professional with a subspecialty in bereavement issues and secondary traumatic stress. Her chapbook, Sound Effects, was published in 2013 by Broadkill Press as part of their Key Poetry Series. Nina's poem "Deja Vu" took third place in the Out & About magazine poetry contest, and her poem "They Do" was nominated for 2012 Best of the Net. Her articles and poetry have appeared in numerous print and online journals and anthologies. Nina is a contributing author to the Open to Hope Foundation. Nina's chapbook, Mix Tape, has just been published by Flutter Press and can be found on Amazon and the Flutter Press website. Nina's chapbook, The House of Yearning, will be published by Kelsay Books, with a release date of October 2018.