I first became acquainted with poet and spoken word artist Sierra DeMulder nearly two years ago, on the night of an event commemorating the sacred in art and writing cosponsored by the Loft Literary Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. At the end of the evening there was a performance hour and open mic hosted by Button Poetry. DeMulder was one of several poets who performed that night; I seriously don’t remember any of the others. That’s how good she is.
A review of DeMulder’s third book of poetry, We Slept Here, can be found in my blog post of July 2014. I loved the anatomy textbook aspect of that collection’s cover; the cover on her fourth book of poetry, Today Means Amen, is similarly engaging and beautiful. While some of the poems in Today Means Amen remind me of those in We Slept Here, for example, “Chai and Whisky,” which opens,
In the small claw-foot bathtub,
we drank cold chai and whiskey
and sat entwined like a car accident…
I think I particularly enjoyed this new collection because it branches out into other relationships. My favorite poems were about the powerlessness of having a sister with an eating disorder (“Gardener’s Daughter”),
….I tell her I won’t let her live
in my house if she lets it sleep over.
and the pleasure of having a niece (“For My Niece Livia, Age 8”),
I was brushing my teeth. Mid-conversation
you pulled down your pants and proceeded
to sit on the toilet, your tiny feet barely
brushing the tile floor below. No pause. No
embarrassment. Quite literally business
It’s hard to describe how much I liked the one, “Teeth,” about the woman with a tiny diamond in the middle of her lateral incisor. Or how I resonated with “At the End of the Day, I am an Animal,” not a reference to the ways nerves fray but to Our desires: cannibal at best. And I am very fond of “Release It,” another poem refuting shame:
Worth is not a well to be poisoned.
It is not a tumbler being filled or
drank from by some audacious god,
nor a monthly allowance we get
when we are not beautiful.
No, it’s not. But when you beg your own niece or nephew or your own child to release whatever it is that is burdening them so terribly as to hobble them like shackles and they don’t or they can’t listen and you must acknowledge that your message is not getting through, buy them a copy of Today Means Amen.
Fold back the pages for the poems above and while you’re at it, fold back “Mantra to Overcome Depression,” “Tonight in Yoga,” and the title poem, too: “Today Means Amen.” There are a lot of self-help books out there but none as good as a line like this:
You, the forgiven, the forgiver, who belongs
right here in this moment.
Which is about as high praise as I, a mom, an auntie, a writer, a lover of poetry, a lover of Sierra DeMulder’s poetry, can give.
(Oh, and regarding my own ms update: 12 pp, 3611 words.)