The title of Millicent Borges Accardi’s new poetry collection Through a Grainy Landscape is from a quote by Tiago Araújo about driving at night where the view has been altered by the “dim and orangey lights” and from the final poem of the book, which explores the journey of living in a world where “walls / built across artificial boundaries” harms even children.
The poems of this book spring from strong influences on Accardi and her writing: Portuguese culture and the Portuguese diaspora; her childhood as the daughter of immigrants, and her mother, a lively figure in party dresses and good times. Accardi says that the poems were inspired by writing by “Portuguese-American writers and Portuguese writers in translation.” I have not read these muses and mentors, but appreciate the wellspring and focus they give the collection.
“It was my Mother who Taught me to Fear,” gives you an idea of what to expect from Through a Grainy Landscape:
The irregular verbs of culture that brought the family away from The Azores, to the promised land of California, was, were been. Shocking like a past to push away And start over born, born/borne. As if invisibility could be Run away from, a new start in the garage of an uncle, after a cross-country railroad trip like pioneers, Los Angeles was away from beat, and was beaten down, the promised land was to become became, begin, a location that pushed away and helped folks to start over, pretending you were someone else to fight, fought, fought. To flee, fled. To approach a way to make-over, redo, make-believe. To start again. As if half-life never happened. Not the Great Depression of your grandmothers, or the Great War, with its aircraft carriers and new breed of how to be and what to do. California was a gifted promise for the melting pot generation, goodbye to bend (bent, bent) into shape. As the train car runs through every state in the union, interwoven, interwoven in a pattern called starting over, in a safe place with a brand new method of keeping, kept, kept. Where no one genuflected on Sundays, kneel (knelt/kneeled, knelt/kneeled). to recreate yourself from nothing is a wonderful thing. Time were, you almost believed it was possible.
Accardi’s collection is a treasure, both for its specific context within Portuguese-American literature and because it responds to the perspective that the United States is a country of immigrants and the descendants of immigrants. I even learned a favorite new word: saudade, which means “a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament” (Oxford Languages). This poetry collection left me with something akin to that feeling.
Through a Grainy Landscape is available HERE.
I remind those of you who preordered Rooted and Winged that the writing contest ends on Wednesday, July 27. That’s the last day you can submit a flash fiction, flash nonfiction, or poem that addresses the prompt in the guidelines. See HERE.
Before too long I will write about the two new cats living at my house. For now I will say that integrating them is a work in progress! Perry is helping me, of course.