Laurie Soriano’s poetry collection, Catalina, published by Lummox Press, was the unanimous choice of the voting members as the winner of the 2011 Indie Lit Awards in the Poetry category. Catalina exemplifies everything I love in a poetry collection. While I have no idea whether these poems are autobiographical, it certainly seems as though Soriano exposes her soul in these stanzas. They affected me deeply with their heaviness and their beauty.
The poems are broken up into four sections, with the first two seeming to focus mainly on childhood. In “Parents,” she paints a portrait of a troubled marriage, alcoholism, and abuse.
Then there was the drinking,
the reason we got hit
before bedtime, the reason we lay alone
shivering in our beds at unreasonable hours
hearing them murder each other, over and over,
leaving puddles of failure and self-pity
all over the living room. (page 21)
There is a haunting quality to the poems in which the narrator remembers her childhood, but the last two sections of the book focus on a happier time, when she is married with children. Yet, emphasizing how the past never leaves us and has made us who we are, the moments of joy and becoming one with nature are contrasted with darker poems dealing with death. Catalina takes readers on a journey as Soriano flees her childhood in Connecticut and embarks on a new life in California, the poems progressing from a painful time to one in which she has come to terms with things.
I think I loved Catalina so much because the poems spoke to me, and I could understand where she was coming from as she described a troubled childhood, falling in love, becoming a mother, and watching her children grow. “Sweet Bean” is beautiful in its imagery as she describes her daughter’s transition from girl to woman.
The peaceful nipples wake up and announce
pinkly the parade of hormones is here,
the breasts bloom into little pillows,
your belly flattens, the waist carves itself,
and suddenly you have a colt’s legs,
big feet, and a supple back that someone
ought to paint a picture of. (page 72)
My favorite poem in the collection is “Impatiens,” in which the narrator tells her lover that she has met someone else, the man who would become her husband and the father of her children, and she describes him as a flower. The poem is beautiful in its intensity, perfectly describing the beginnings of true love though it is written after they have already been together for years. When you finish this poem, you know in your bones that her leaving this other man was the right thing to do and that somehow he understood.
The man is simple like the earth, loamy, radiant
and when my eyes behold his face,
the confident smooth masculine skin gives way
to the flashes of color that no one deserves
that are his eyes, flashing that way
because of me. (page 68)
Catalina has become my favorite contemporary poetry collection because I could relate to the experiences Soriano describes in these poems. Soriano’s blend of narration and poetic language are perfect. The poems are subtle, yet at the same time they are intense, intimate, and sensual. The themes of love and loss, pain and joy, birth and death are ones we can all relate to, and her images are vivid yet never too much. From here on out, whenever someone tells me they don’t read poetry because they can’t understand it or it doesn’t speak to them, I will encourage them to read this collection.
**The Indie Lit Awards poetry board had the opportunity to interview Laurie Soriano. I hope you’ll take the time to check it out!**
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