Andrea Scarpino is author of Once, Then, from Red Hen Press, which she describes as a “book of elegies.” The reading is here.
Her poems undertake to speak about and to issues of love and loss, and move across the worlds of the personal and political. Her range is quite extraordinary, a poetry that includes and speaks of issues in science and spirituality, and uses mythic and poetic figures such as Achilles (“Self Portrait as Achilles”), Persephone (several pomegranate poems), Hiroshima, car horns, and many others, all unexpected. Many of the most moving poems in the book are personal poems about her father, about which one reviewer (Amy Elisabeth Hansen, writing in Past Tensing) has written:
I don’t think anyone turns to elegies for comfort, and I didn’t find any in Once, Then. What I did find was the narrative distance to approach my own grief. The elegies are personal and specific; they draw on Scarpino’s father’s career as a microbiologist, detail his habits. They remember a friend, Gracie. The poems give life and story to personal, political, past and mythological deaths.
I feel the absence of Scarpino’s father in the poem [Tissues], but I also feel him in front of it, and not only because of the second-person address. I feel the abruptness, the finality of the entire past-tense sentence on the last line. These poems work like gifts, maybe less about the yous, hes and shes than they are for them. Scarpino places the subject in front of the poem, rather than containing him within it, which is how Once, Then can wrap itself around so much loss…. I moved closer to understanding my grief. These poems helped me, and that’s the highest praise I can give.
This reading was sponsored by Nine Mile Magazine, and underwritten by The Downtown Writers Center, the NYS Council on the Arts, and by the Honors Program at Syracuse University. Many thanks to all.