BY: CATHERINE M. DARBY
A Filament Burns in Blue Degrees by Kendra Tanacea is a haunting first collection of poems released this year by Lost Horse Press. Tanacea is a master of the moment—not straight-on moments, but rather, ones full of visuals and emotions that transport the reader into Tanacea’s world. In this world, the reader becomes a lover, beloved, betrayed, friend, child, and want-to-be-mother, all while ruminating about life and the fullness it can offer.
Kendra Tanacea ’88
A Filament Burns in Blue Degrees
Lost Horse Press
78 pages, $18
Kendra Tanacea ’88, a poet and full-time practicing trial lawyer, has a forceful new book out. An English major at Wellesley, Tanacea also has an M.F.A. in writing and literature, and an infectious, throaty laugh. After Garrison Keillor recently featured two of her poems on his Writer’s Almanac show, she laughingly said, “I should be a playwright—it was such a thrill to hear it.”
Why do you write?
I read constantly. Sometimes I want to argue back at an essay or article, but with a poem. Other times, stories move me and I want to add my feelings to the mix, so I will use that story as a springboard and see where my writing takes me. Writing is inward and exploratory. It has no limits. You can imagine and think whatever you want to. That’s why I love it. It allows me to romp around in my own mind and discover.
Poetry, with its imaginative leaps and images, permits readers to add their own imaginings and associations to the poem, so the meaning of a poem becomes a unique collaboration between the writer and each reader.
What’s your writing practice?
I get up early when it’s dark and quiet, and write when I’m still groggy and in the beautiful place between sleeping and waking. My initial outpourings are handwritten in a notebook. I only use the computer when I’m crafting the poem.
I also enjoy writing with a group of local writers, Laguna Writers, inspired by prompts and other participants. As these workshops are at the end of the day, my writing collects images from my surroundings, grafted to the particular concerns of that day.
Why does poetry matter?
A great example is Maggie Smith’s “Good Bones,” which recently went viral. The poem’s speaker struggles to keep the horrors of this world from her children and ultimately speaks of hope. Assuming the role of a real estate agent, Smith ends with:
I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
It’s a smart, simple, painful/hopeful poem that acknowledges all the wrongs and injustices, and quietly implores the reader to “renovate” this world, to revive its beauty.
By Paula Butturini ’73 | Butturini, a writer based in Connecticut, is the author of Keeping the Feast: One Couple’s Story of Love, Food, and Healing.
Why There Are Words, PORTENTS, July 13, 2017
there's excitement inside me
a tuned-up car, detailed
hugging each curve to Hana
cocktails in cup holders
waterfalls & a peacock
what a beauty
a strong & pungent off-gassing
a bus ride with a kind driver
even the strange dog didn't bite me
lucky day going forward regularly
this glowing bus is gorgeous
no reports of break-ins
no litter at my feet
I must have kissed you
a hundred times tonight
a bird at the feeder
I couldn't help a little soft-shoe
isn't the spaghetti delicious
even the rain opened pink succulents
the road winds so nicely around the hillside
skin alive & receptive
wind & touch &
this feeling in your core
a murmuration of starlings
you're a great blue heron
on unseen currents
oh to be bird & kite & panther
it's not the heart but a sensation
sun-core radiating warmth
spill of warm tea on your lap
it's not love for another
but for self and other
bright auras overlapping
in imagination or confusion
a steel rod still glowing from fire
hot glass ballooning at the end of the straw
excitement & calmness of soul
lava glowing & inching forward
around stone & tree & me
sighing when it meets the sea
Thanks to The Round Magazine for publishing three of my poems in issue xvi: "I Love It When We Fall Backward and Deep," "Seated Next to a Friend's Husband at the House of Prime Rib to Celebrate Eric's Fiftieth Birthday," and "Where Did You Come From, Angel?"
A night to remember. Thanks to poets Joyce Jenkins and Richard Silberg, editors of Poetry Flash magazine and co-hosts of the Poetry Flash reading series at Moe’s Books in Berkeley, where I read from A Filament Burns in Blue Degrees with the amazing Jan Beatty. Her book, Jackknife, is magnificent. And I will never forget the gorgeous introductions by Richard Silberg.
Making Risotto for Dinner When His Ex-Wife Calls
While I mince an onion, he talks with her,
planning their son’s bar mitzvah, sounding
so familiar, so nuts and bolts. Turning up the gas flame,
I sauté the onion translucent. Butter sizzles, foams,
as they go over the invitation list, names I’ve never heard.
Adding a cup of Arborio, I think of white rice
thrown high in the air by the fistful. I pour
two glasses of chardonnay, one for the risotto,
one for myself, sip, then gulp. Blend.
The band, flowers, menu?
Heady, I stare at the recipe to orient myself, to understand
what I am doing: Add broth, cup by cup, until absorbed.
Add Parmesan. Serve immediately.
The word immediately catches my eye,
but their conversation continues, then his son
gets on the line and hangs up on him,
as I stir and stir, holding the wooden spoon.
“Making Risotto for Dinner When His Ex-Wife Calls” by Kendra Tanacea from A Filament Burns in Blue Degrees. © Lost Horse Press, 2017. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
When It Happened
When Dad came home from the hospital, Donna Summer,
on the radio. A blue robe. Welcome home! Detoxing,
there were ghosts: his mother white-nightgowning toward him
through the center of his bed. Back of his neck, railroad-stitched,
just over the cervical spine. Christmastime? The Super-8’s
flood light so bright, he’s squinting. Hold up the new robe!
Blondie was singing about hearts of glass, and either there were icicles
or it was hot and humid. A tropical dress on a heavy July night.
Sometimes I think it was January, his car skidding on black ice.
Other times I’m sure it’s July and summer vacation, tuning the radio
to catch a song and a breeze through the screen. Set the table,
wash the dishes, just one long Formica day.
He was there, then he was gone. He came back.
It was Christmas and we gave him a blue robe. To lounge,
to recover. Recover. But it was July in the heat of summer
when I was a nurse in South Pacific. That’s when he got sick.
Or became sick. When he spent long nights in the basement,
magnifying quartz, pyrite, slices of mica. The cellar:
the coolest place on those sleepless nights, radio crackling,
the antennae unable to grab onto a station.