New Discovery: Mona Lisa Saloy

True story.

My intern buddy and I were asked to write book blurbs yesterday. One of the books was a new collection of poems by Mona Lisa Saloy called Second Line Home. Neither of us had ever read anything by her before, so we were given the manuscript and an earlier collection published by the press called Red Beans and Ricely Yours.

Seriously. Get it. That collection should be on a required reading list for human beings.

I read the first two lines of the first poem in the book and my head exploded:

Word Works
I’m about how words
work up a gumbo of culture

My buddy and I literally sat in our little intern-corner for hours reading her poetry, ooh-ing and ahh-ing and drooling (metaphorically) all over the pages. This woman is the hottest thing since sliced bread, and now I’m on a mad quest to discover if the press has any “hurt books” they can give to me for free so I can take them home and love them forever.

I am in awe.
If I was in her presence I might actually swoon.
Hopefully someone would be around to catch me.
If not though, that’d still be okay.

Just wanted you to know.

Book Review: Bring Down the Little Birds

Bring Down the Little Birds: On Mothering, Art, Work, and Everything Else, by Carmen Giménez Smith

If there is one thing I learned from this novel, it is this: There is no one face of motherhood. Motherhood encompasses many roles, attitudes, and conflicts. It is a balancing act, a compromise, a conflict with a self-contained resolution. It is a chance combined with all the instincts and all the eggs you’ll ever have or ever need.

Smith’s novel is constructed out of short paragraphs with a distinct, lyrical rhythm. Some read like a stream of consciousness, while others are punctuated by wider, more universal observations about motherhood and life.

These punctuations give the reader time to surface and consider, to breathe, before plunging back down into the densely personal, silent water.

These short paragraphs make up the realm of discussion and reflection Smith creates for herself and allows the reader to experience as well. Her language is frank and accessible. She does not shy away from the “gory details” and she does not idealize, presenting the reader with views of motherhood on the body—distorting its shape, becoming a body invaded, and motherhood on the mind—a paradigm shift in thought and emotion.

Smith bears it all, and her poignant honesty accomplishes much of what she is aiming to achieve, which is chartering motherhood in its entirety.


The main characters of the story are the members of Smith’s family; her husband, son, daughter, and mother. Her mother has a tumor growing in her brain which Smith relates to her daughter growing inside her uterus.

The dichotomy is striking—the fetus develops while the tumor destroys. This points to the greater cycle of birth and death. The experience of taking care of her own mother causes Smith to assume two motherhoods simultaneously.

Smith weaves these two stories, the beginning and final stages of life, together. That they occur contemporaneously is a consequence of the actual timing of events, but also a device of the plot reminding the reader that at all times death and renewal work upon our world. That out of the chaos of car seats, teaching, writing, and cleaning, there is a balance.

Perhaps the most important message is one that Smith relates by pointing out all the different facets of motherhood. By reading this book we are guaranteed that for each of us, much of our experience will be similar to what Smith describes, while at the same time it will be utterly distinct.

Smith reveals through this novel the process of motherhood as self-actualization—that is the promise of motherhood and everything else.

The great phases are the same, but how we travel through them is up to us.