Like Calder’s mobiles, Joanna Solfrian’s poems speak to the power of playful equipoise. She marshals one vivid line after another in confrontation, declaration, allusion, and sheer brio. Her poetry is compounded of the ageless ingredients—tenderness, wonder, life’s unmethodical wounds—which she conjures into real creations, poems that wake us up to the enormities that face us and the adroit rapture of art.
Joanna Solfrian’s second book, The Mud Room, is a masterpiece of the heart’s inquiry as to what makes a person whole, what grants identity in a damaged, resilient world. The voice, authentic and persuasive, behind these poems loves the complexity of our struggle to survive long goodbyes, fugitive seductions, and loss—and it invites the reader to do so too: “If you know the mud room of the world // you know the creation space, the half-light, all that came from / a pair of eyes and a sudden yes.” It doesn’t hold back as it asks us to hold on: “Give me a single finger / and trace a map on my lips. / Give me a cup of coffee in a white cup. / The way the withered leaves give whispers, / give me your mouth. // Then we can travel anywhere / and make a great big ruckus.” This is a poet to celebrate, her poems to savor, a book for everyone to have on their nightstand.
“Only those who do not share their wine have enemies. / I have extra wine; no one is plotting my death but I”—that’s Jo Solfrian in The Mud Room, channeling the Sufi masters in a voice that’s hers alone. Solfrian’s new book is achingly alive—you’ll find David Ortiz, the jumbies, the couple with the Navy’s first same-sex kiss—and the stakes are intimate, visceral. Solfrian’s work is charged with immediacy. Every poem has the zing and edge of a buzzer shot or a spiritual practice; each line wants to transform the page, the reader, the speaker. Solfrian can follow a thread of sorrow until we emerge in ecstasy—or at least, ecstatic sorrow. Martin Buber speaks of reversal: the moment when your faith, instead of corroborating your aims, leads you to a world that’s the opposite of your expectations. That’s where Solfrian’s art lives. It’s poetry that makes everything happen.
The Mud Room
by Joanna Solfrian
$19.95, paperback, 94pp