Hurrah’s Nest by Arisa White is an illustration of the “untidy heap” or “tangle of debris that can block a stream” that family can become, and it will remind readers how birds create their nests out of the most unwelcome or tossed aside elements of the world from hair to fabric strings and twigs. There are scars here, deep ones rooted in absentee parents and relatives whose ways of doing things countered the practices the narrator was taught. Minor acts of rebellion scream out in dreadlocks and boyish haircuts on girls. There are other poems with child-like qualities in which panties become parachutes and beaded braids become like seaweed in “Last Bath,” which represent happier memories and playfulness shared by young siblings with great imaginations.
In “Portrait Painter” (page 19), White’s narrator ponders the evident differences between herself and her brothers, whom she is called out of childhood into adulthood at a moment’s notice to help raise. “It’s different/how our mother looks at us/with sweet and brick/of romances gone,” she observes. A deep sadness and resentment pervades the poems in this collection as the narrator looks back on the waffling of her mother who in turns cares for and gives up care of her children, and threatens them with foster care when they’ve not behaved as they should, particularly in “Chore.”
Ostracization happens inside and outside the family for the narrator as she experiences typical classroom jokes coupled with the laughing she endures from her mother, brother, and step-father. Her mother even chastizes her for her sensitivity, saying that it is like a “broken leg” in “Helicopter, Heliocopter Please Come Down. If You Don’t Come Down, I’ll Shoot You Down.” (page 28).
In “An Albatross to Us Both” (page 41-3), the theme of protection and strength is strongest as the narrator and her siblings “wear each other like amulets.” Hurrah’s Nest by Arisa White is a lesson to us all that despite all of the “mess” we create with our lives and the messes that we live through, there are nuggets of wisdom and strength that we carry with us and nurture. Strong imagery combined with themes of loss, separation, and togetherness create a powerful collection about the beautiful mess that families are and how they shape us.
ARISA WHITE is a Cave Canem fellow, an MFA graduate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of the poetry chapbooks Disposition for Shininess and Post Pardon; she was selected by the San Francisco Bay Guardian for the 2010 Hot Pink List. Member of the PlayGround writers’ pool, her play Frigidare was staged for the 15th Annual Best of PlayGround Festival. Recipient of the inaugural Rose O’Neill Literary House summer residency at Washington College in Maryland, Arisa has also received residencies, fellowships, or scholarships from Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Hedgebrook, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Prague Summer Program, Fine Arts Work Center, and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2005, her poetry has been published widely and is featured on the recording WORD with the Jessica Jones Quartet. A blog editor for HER KIND, and the editorial assistant at Dance Studio Life magazine, Arisa is a native New Yorker, living in Oakland, CA, with her partner. Her debut collection, Hurrah’s Nest, was published by virtual artists collective.
****Check out today’s National Poetry Month Blog Tour stop at Seer of Ghosts and Weaver of Stories.
This is the 10th book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.
This is my 28th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.