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The Pomegranate Papers by Cassie Premo Steele

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Pomegranate-PapersReview by Maria Scala

– The cover of Cassie Premo Steele’s latest collection of poetry, The Pomegranate Papers, bears the image of a succulent red pomegranate bursting through and staining a page of text from the dictionary. This is an apt way to describe the central theme of this wise and thoughtful collection – motherhood and creativity. One often bleeds into the other, and sometimes with great force. Throughout the book, Premo Steele depicts worlds that both mingle and collide. Early on, in “Walking on the Backs of Whales”, she vividly describes a dream she has the night of her daughter’s birth:

The night you were born I dreamt
I saw whales in the ocean, large humps
of backs rising out of the sea, grey
like your hands, and lingering there,
in the air, skin full of urchins and
moss. The sight was wondrous, like
your eyes, the first time you looked
at us, into the blue of me, the hazel
of your father, your gaze a miraculous
mix of us both. …(p. 26)

Here, there is more mingling than anything else, of images from nature and from her dreams with the reality of giving birth. But not long after this poem, there is a definite shift in tone, with the poet’s admission in “What I cannot tell you” (p. 31), that the child’s touch “arrived with loss,” and that as a mother she began to “look away” from the child’s father. Premo Steele does not avoid the uncomfortable truths, but gives them the attention they deserve. From mothering a step-daughter and a daughter, and “uncoupling” and “returning” to her husband, she shifts her gaze to her role as a creative person. In “The Poemgranate”, she captures, with precise and evocative language, what she and so many creative mothers are trying to achieve:

All I can do is to feed my desire
For solitude, find a way back
To myself through these words

That I harvest like fruits, plucked
From my head, cut open in bed,
And eaten, forbidden or not,

Seeds and core, peel and stem, entire.
It is with this poemgranate that I might
Make myself, mother, whole again. (p. 100)

These, and so many of the words in The Pomegranate Papers, are the words of maturity and wisdom, from a woman “No longer baby, and not yet old woman, … poised on the brink of midlife.” (“Woman Births Century at Midlife”, p. 129) And like that red fruit that yields so much promise with each little seed, this book is one to be savored.

The Pomegranate Papers by Cassie Premo Steele
Unbound Content 2012


Maria Scala s a writer and editor living in Toronto with her husband, daughter, and son. Her poetry and non-fiction have appeared in Descant,, mamazine, Between O and V, and Sweet Lemons 2: International Writings with a Sicilian Accent. She is a senior editor for Literary Mama.


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