Monday, March 31, 2008



Imagining a Baby by Bob Marcacci
(Dusie, 2007)

The art of drawing has come a long way from the idea of putting pencil or charcoal on paper (or cave wall) to create an image. One artist stretches out thin lines of black ink across a wet white field (or vice versa in terms of color), then picks up the panel and swirls it about to create forms with simultaneously biomorphic and galactic implications (her name is Maureen McQuillan). Another artist takes a wet brush and “throws” the ink at a page tacked up against the wall in a result that could be considered a “watercolor” as well as “drawing” (her name is Pat Steir). Another artist superimposes layers of rice paper against each other so that the “final” image is the sum of images on two fields (her name is Theresa Chong). Another artist uses hair to create line-based forms (her name, uh, will come to me...) Another artist dribbles water across paper and lets the puckering form the marks to create the drawing (her name is Laurie Reid). Another artist placed a small piece of paper across a page in my journal, scribbled furiously across the whole page, then took away the small piece of paper to show "negative space" (his name is Phil Sims). Another artist places wet ink at the edge of a page that’s held up so that gravity does the “drawing” (I might have imagined this artist, but if so the approach is a combination of Theresa Chong’s, Pat Steir’s and Laurie Reid's). These are just a few innovative visual artists addressing drawing...

...who came to mind as I read/perused Bob Marcacci’s single-poem chap, Imagining a Baby. For I consider this project as much as, if not more of, a(n innovative) drawing rather than a poem. Facilitating this conclusion is the Acknowledgements’ note that
The words in this poem are largely comprised of words from the Pregnancy & Childbirth and Babies Online websites.

Thus, I thought that Marcacci used the borrowed words to place texts on the page -- thus creating a drawing by showing vs. saying something (it can be similar to the way one sculpts rather than writes poems by rearranging text garnered from internet and other third-party sources). Given the e-sources for the words to Imagining A Baby, it’s logical for the poem to contain passages like
this week / beginning \
of the 2nd
you don’t look like much
while your intestines
migrate / & 20 teeth
wait under gums
you swallow
amniotic fluid \
you can smile /

But note the insertion of the forward and back slashes: / and \. These "marks" (a drawing term, certainly) are critical as they become more prevalent throughout the chap as one goes through its 16 pages. Each subsequent stanza also grows more shaped (through indents and caesuras), in the same way that a fetus develops within the mother’s uterus, for instance
you continue to
put on weight                /\\
as layers\of fat//                \
pile on & help \/ /
           /temperature &/
develop immunity in prepaeration
for life/outside
the womb & the womb
your \mother feels
               more your\ knees
               /& elbows &\
it is painful/
               \ sometimes \
as\ you continue
                              to grow &/
               snuggle down
               into the pelvis
               your mother
breathes more easily

Note the slashmarks because the last “stanza” of the poem is comprised of no words but only such slashmarks. And the slashmarks outline a baby dropping out of a womb. Well, it outlines a baby but the image, with the head towards the bottom of the page, denotes said dropping out of the womb. That is, the text finally disappears altogether for a picture which, after all, can be worth a thousand words. The drawing holds sway over the poem.

Imagining a Baby is also a fine conceptual act. For the future parent, can words ever really capture the reality of a baby forming within a belly? I suspect that one can only imagine what it will be like, thus the appropriateness of Marcacci lifting words from other sources if he is not able to articulate the “Imagining (of) a Baby.”

There is also an appreciable warmth in this project -- appreciable if only because of what the poem is about. I don't know if Marcacci lifted some of the lines in this stanza below from the referenced websites but they feel personal, as if they might have been generated from his own life experience; in any event, their narrative is welcome here:
these days it rains often &
we stay inside \ & \ watch TV
you mother \ often takes \
a nap in \ the \ afternoon \
she \ can’t \ sleep \
on her \ right side \
hormones from \
the placenta \
activate \ milk
in your \ mother’s \
breasts she has \ contractions
at the dinner table & winces \
you can \ grasp \ firmly
you open your eyes \
when awake & close them
when sleeping \
your skin continues
to thicken & you \ develop
antibodies you urinate
               almost \ 1 pint each day
                              where does it go \

Ultimately, Imagining a Baby is a lovely feat for capturing in both form and content the theme as defined by its title. What a unique way to approach the topics of pregnancy and birth about which millions of words certainly have been stated all through the centuries. This project is birthed from a beautiful mind.


As remuneration for editing Galatea Resurrects, Eileen Tabios doesn't have her books reviewed here ... but she's pleased to point you elsewhere to Thomas Fink's review of her SILENCES: The Autobiography of Loss.

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