Apprenticed to the Night, by LindaAnn LoSchiavo
Published by Universe Press
ISBN 978-1-915025-77-7 PB (paperback) £9.95
ISBN 978-1-915025-78-4 HB (hard cover) £19.95
Submitted by Andrea Walker, April 2023
In her collection of sixty-six works of poetry and prose, Apprenticed to the Night, LindaAnn LoSchiavo writes of life and death, before and after, with themes of childhood, trauma, family, and love. Included with a dash of Italian ancestry and told with the flavor of Italian culture, the occasional phrase spices up the poetry with gusto as the most important life issues are detailed.
Sharp imagery of night and owl draws the reader in for her lyrical poetry to take the reader on a winding path. Beginning with the speaker’s childhood, “Cassandra’s Curse” reveals several traumatic childhood events the speaker experienced: the sudden accidental death of a little girl, praying with her grandfather before he dies, and witnessing the arrest for murder of someone she once dated. Contradicted by attending adults who deny what’s happening along with her relationship to the events, her speaker is likened to Cassandra whom no one believes, adding yet more frustration. Another betrayal occurs in “Pajama Party” when parents are deceptive about staying in the hospital for a tonsillectomy.
Told with subtlety, family stories of activities are passed down through generations. The poet makes skillful use of internal rhyme in “Merletta (Lace),” the story of her grandmother making lace. “She shakes from pale silk its unwillingness to be superior” then asks the reader to “imagine what perfection she could coax from hiding out of me.” The poem pays homage to ancestors in the line “ancestral graces skip my generation.” Homage to ancestors continues in “Grandpa Umberto’s Fig Trees.” The speaker observes a kind of quiet desperation in the pruning and caring for trees that “will do just what they want” when he is gone.
“The Rite of Pummarola” bears an explosion of the senses in the cellar, draped in orange light, steam-kissed by four steel pots at constant boil, rattling, air thickening. Readers can taste the pureed tomatoes, sniff the aroma of herbs, hear the clang of the pestle and pot lids. The family’s work becomes a rhythmic dance to the percussion of bottle capping, teasing the appetite by the end of the poem.
A master of form, LoSchiavo crafts her work with detail as she continues the themes of family and childhood. Poems flow in loosely organized sets of father, uncle, mother and sister and address life’s frailties of abandonment, sickness, suffering, death and beyond.
The speaker’s story of her grandfather’s bone marrow transplant goes deep as bone as the father prepares to donate marrow to his father and the family eats bone soup, not in preparation but because they are poor. As a small child who is eventually not permitted to attend his funeral, the young speaker is left to her imagination, grief, and fear.
That writers write to understand is evident in the poems that follow about close family members. In “Wizard of Words,” her father is portrayed as a writer and storyteller, who learned to work within Italian and English, “paring down as he did the bad parts of fruit,” writing with sadness as well as humor. His tale continues in “Visiting Gemini” as he “grows a twin” and moves away to pursue writing and other mysteries. The reader learns what happens and its effects in “When Fathers Disappear” and a possible poetic justice in “The Bombardier.”
LoSchiavo shares youthful lessons of the ghosts of death’s lingering essence in several poems. The macabre is introduced in the fascinating prose “The Poltergeists of President’s Street.” With a hint of humor, her uncle tells the story of a long ago poker game and the mystery and emotions that linger. Several poems ensue developing the uncle and another ghostly memory. “On the Anniversary of His Death,” is so realistically and beautifully told it seems possible it could have happened.
Within this web of complexity, the poet provides a glimpse of comic relief, humorous metaphor, and Italian nuance in “Sticky Figs.” LoSchiavo writes with electricity—physical and emotional. For example, “Kinetic Kissing” describes a kiss worth experiencing. The romance in “Impatiens Budding” and “Invitation to a Kiss” sparks with subtle electricity.
Tones of spookiness and occasional horror mingle with tones of romance and fond remembrance. Sharing dark experiences with the intuitive reader, each poem is rich with LoSchiavo’s unique perspective and sensitivity. Death’s relevance, found within these pages, is dealt with equally among other relevant issues like family, religion, love and romance, and even social issues. The mystery and supernatural told in believable detail kept me turning pages as if they were experienced. Read and be surprised.
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