Sunday, July 23, 2017



RAYFISH by Mary Hickman
(Omnidawn, Oakland, 2017)

Mary Hickman’s RAYFISH is one of those reading experiences one wants to repeat while wallowing amidst soap bubbles in a bath—an impulse that arose from wanting to wallow in Hickman’s words. Its prose poem form is helpful for this desired sense of immersion, which is also to say, there’s an admirable physicality to these words. For example, here’s an example from opening the book at random—from “Shenzen II”

(click on images to enlarge)

Here’s another wonderful excerpt—from “Everything is Autobiography and Everything is a Portrait”—

I don’t read many poetry collections where art criticism is embedded, so I also want to share this excerpt from Hickman’s wonderful meditations on Soutine, “Still Life with a Rayfish”—

The above excerpts show a specificity to detail that is a hallmark of not just good poetry but relevant criticism. The poetry also surfaces from the author’s delineation of significances, e.g. “Andy Warhol” which begins,

Andy only wants to be told about his body by others. Like if I am on the phone with him, standing here completely naked, looking at my stretch marks. If, right now, I am looking at the scar on my side from my abscessed breastbone and I am looking a the scar on my leg from where I fell in the garden, he asks, “What about my scars?”

and ends,

What about your scars, I say. I’ll tell you about your scars. You put them to work for you. They’re the best thing you have. These bodies, this molten mass of bodies constantly seething and circulating, form cracks in the dark, cooled skin over the glowing image of Andy. This enables me to be happy with this piece, to sweeten the figure of Andy, to allow him to remain as he insists upon remaining: suspended in a vaporous narrative. We dissolve desire to enter the heart of Andy. There are bones in the Great Wall, My finger finds a finger-bone. There are wrists in this wall. And a pelvis, a pelvis is a fossil.

I rarely read a contemporary poetry book more than once. I anticipate reading this more more than twice – perhaps one reading will be with the lavender bath salts for enhancement of physical immersion into these words … which are Recommended.


Eileen Tabios is the editor of Galatea ResurrectsHer 2017 poetry releases include two books, two booklets and six poetry chaps. The latter includes a new fundraising chap, MARAWI, co-authored with Albert Alejo. Forthcoming later this fall is a new poetry collection, MANHATTAN: An Archaeology (Paloma Press). She does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere for a recent review of her work: M. Earl Smith reviews Excavating the Filipino In Me for The FilAm Magazine!  More info about her work at

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