by Jesi Buell
published 2014, Minor Arcana Press
Natasha Marin has done something I consider incredibly brave with her recent publication,Milk. She documents a gendered experience unapologetically, without genuflection towards a male authority.
While there is a universality to the sentiments expressed (pain, uncertainty, fear), Marin is writing about an experience that half of the world’s population and her readers will never be able to experience. The amazing part is that the writing does not feel the need to pander to a dominant audience – this book is bravely and brazenly female.
“Close your eyes to follow my tidal rhythm:
hear how I can moan like the wind with you inside me –
Howling through my empty spaces, every nook and crevice quivers,
like you used to live here.” (53)
There are elements of this book that don’t pander to me either, for that matter, even though I am a woman. At one point, Marin states that she “understand[s] as much as a childless white woman can understand” (41). There I am - in her narrative, unbeknownst to the author herself. But Marin draws thick dichotomies and I know I cannot understand the experiences of a black mother. So I, as a reader, must acknowledge my ignorance and latch onto what I can understand (creation, hunger…). This positioning and leverage is what make Marin’s Milk tangibly powerful.
While the entire book maintains an undercurrent of Marin’s concern for her son, the text oscillates between many worlds and eras in episodic vignettes. Yet, Milkmanages to feel thoroughly modern through the use of color, art, and hyperlinking to Wikipedia entries and online content, augmenting the experience and creating a complicated but engrossing ambiance to nurture her reader. References manage to jump from slavery to Facebook updates or from crabs and wolves to Family Guy without feeling muddled or forced. The poems place you in a specific time within a specific mood flawlessly and the surrounding aesthetic choices create a living and breathing atmosphere.
Poetry about race and motherhood is nothing new. Neither are women writers. Yet, still, there seems to be some sad miracle in experiencing it, and even more so when the writing is this beautiful and poignant.