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Segue 11: Fall 2013  ||  Barbara Maloutas


about the author


Barbara Maloutas is the 2008 Sawtooth Poetry Prize winner for The Whole Marie, (Ahsahta Press). Her books and chapbooks include In a Combination of Practices (New Issues Press), of which anything consists (Diagram/New Michigan Press), Coffee Hazilly (Beard of Bees), Practices (Diagram/New Michigan Press) and Her Not Blessed  (Les Figues Press). Her work is included in two anthologies: Intersections: Innovative Poets of Southern California (Green Integer) and The L.A. Telephone Book, Vol. 1. Her work has appeared in journals including Aufgabe, FreeVerse, Tarpaulin Sky, Segue, Good Foot, The New Review of Literature, bird dog, dusie, elimae, Interbirth Books, Greatcoat, OR, kadar koli, Octopusand Puerto del Sol.


about the work


The prose poems in the final section of the unpublished manuscript entitled Field Studies in an Infinite Universe, are thematically similar but were made and collected over time. The section title, Not Even Their Mother, could imply a missing word or words like—Knew, Cared, Could Help, Survived or another word or word combination. The choices seem endless. Even suggests something surprising or unlikely.The states of motherhood and poetry expect and look for interruption and a jagged response. The poems in Not Even Their Mother are dialogic directly and indirectly. The second poem, “Crossing,” ends with the words of a neighbor in answer to a mother’s question. It is what the mother wanted to hear, “Don’t worry. Don’t be silly.” There is no resolution to questions raised. The poems are small investigations, tending slightly toward subversion, since they consider things or incidents not usually worthy of attention in a poetic text.

Each of the poems follows the movement of consciousness itself and exists so that the text can exist. Although I call them prose poems and not stories, there are elements of the made story in each, perhaps not the complete structure of a story, but a suggestion of one, that allows various interpretations. There is little “about” about these poems, but hopefully they do undermine the boundaries and balance between the creative and the object.

The illusion that they are autobiographical may not be an illusion, at least not completely, but characters are secondary to the text.  If I were not a mother, it would not have occurred to me to delve into this theme. What do I think a mother thinks about, as mother? How does she say what she thinks?

Years ago I realized that my poems had strong psychological leanings when a female painter emailed me saying that she really liked my poetry. As soon as I could I left my office to visit a gallery on “gallery row” in Los Angeles to see her paintings. One of her paintings was of a body bag (with a body in it) lying in the bottom of a clothing closet. Her work was a visual representation of my kind of text work.

The opening piece, “Theory,” speaks about a grown son, a mother and the son’s friends, one in particular. Her noticing certain attractive physical things about one of the friends and therefore about herself, is the “about” of this poem. The third piece is not a direct revelation of poet’s psychology, but more a persona poem and an investigation into the dramatic physical connection of a mother with a baby: “She is pretty much bursting out of that red dress for him.” The fourth piece places the male child at the center and questions the clichéd position of women in the domestic setting. In the final piece I again used a “baby-talk” ending with the “choo-choo” train buildings around the bookstore courtyard. In “Crossing” I used the word “boing” to describe the reflex action of a baby’s legs.           

The difficult part is keeping a balance between the story and the consciousness of the text. I do this after the poems have been around in rough form for a while. It is usually a cutting away, adding a slight connection here or taking one word away there, being cleaner grammatically, deciding how much ambiguity and irresolution to allow, including some mistakes.


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