Writing in the Ether by Catherine Arra

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The poems and short prose in Catherine Arra’s Writing in the Ether were born from the connective tissue of memory, the bones of the past, and the spirit that insists not only upon seeing and remembering, but upon reconciling “the holy and the unholy” to embrace what is.

Here is a story of a girl growing up in the 1960s with a mysteriously elusive mother, a second-generation immigrant father, and her immigrant grandparents living next door. At the center of the collection is a desire to reach back for clarity and continuity that becomes, in itself, an act of writing in the ether.

Through an exploration into her own story, Arra invites each of us to go back and become “forever the sentinel” on the doorstep of our history, to find the sweetest joys, the most devastating betrayals, and in doing so, mark each with a cross, a prayer, and perhaps a poem, because, as Arra writes, “Love eats you, and this is the only way home.”

Description

  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 100
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: December 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-948017-32-9

Praise

Ether may be the fifth element, but poet-memoirist Catherine Arra grounds her alchemical work in the flame of the forge, toe-licking saltwater, radiant air, and earthbound ash. “There is a text within every text,” this born storyteller assures us, turning her gaze from her 1960s childhood to mismatched parents later in life, then back to her immigrant grandparents and Sicilian forebears. Arra’s words pulse with a soft incandescence, like fireflies, or sparks from a distant volcano. —Nina Shengold

Catherine Arra “gathers cracks in time like pick-up sticks,” and offers them to us as a shared memory. Tender yet honest, these poems capture the essence of self-discovery through fierce images of both nature and innocence. —Lisa St. John

Writing in the Ether is a hybrid book of poems in five parts, with a few pieces of prose (a favorite is “Forge Light,” about the poet’s Sicilian great-grandfather in New York), which brings to life stories and histories of the author’s parents and grandparents, immigrants whose characters are vivid and developed. This is a book of voices, with beautifully crafted language and imagery. Some highlights are “Advent,” a gorgeous, heart-wrenching poem about her Sicilian grandparents’ last days (the ending will floor you), and “Inheritance,” a scathing yet deeply sensitive exploration of a daughter’s relationship with both parents. Page after page, the reader will discover many faces of humanity, from terrible hidden secrets to unexpected love. —Lori Desrosiers

Excerpt

Find You in Smoke

Mother, if I could summon you back
I’d sit with you at my morning table
prepare strong coffee the way you like
place an ashtray near because you’ll
want to smoke after this long time away.

I’d finally insist that my eyes, replicas
of your hazel-green-framed-in-auburn
see beyond what I needed from you
slide down your color-streaked coronas
and slip through

like Alice chasing rabbits. I’d
fall into your girlhood, snuggle up close
smell your skin, shampoo, interlock fingers.
We’d whisper like best friends, sisters

and then you could tell me your secrets
the ones that walk backward, scream at night
the ones that kept you away from me
the ones you burned with 60 years of cigarettes
that killed you anyway.

Author

Catherine ArraCatherine Arra is a former high school English and writing teacher. Since leaving the classroom in 2012, her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous literary journals online and in print, and in several anthologies. She is the author of three chapbooks, Slamming & Splitting (Red Ochre Press, 2014), Loving from the Backbone (Flutter Press, 2015), and Tales of Intrigue & Plumage (FutureCycle Press, 2017). Writing in the Ether is her first full-length collection. Arra is a native of the Hudson Valley in upstate New York, where she lives most of the year, teaches part-time, and facilitates local writing groups. In winters she migrates to the Space Coast of Florida.
Find her at www.catherinearra.com