Announcing Geode, A New Book by Ona Gritz
by Dan Simpson
Ona Gritz’s first full-length collection of poetry is now available for pre-order from Mainstreet Rag Press. Geode, a finalist for the 2013 Mainstreet Rag Poetry Book Award, will sell for $14 when released next February. However, if you pre-order it now, you can get it for $9 and, as Ona says, “help with its birth.” Here’s a direct link to Ona’s Author’s Page, where you can find out more about the book and its author and read sample poems:
As Ona’s partner and writing companion, I can hardly claim complete objectivity in reading her work. Yet, as writers, we strive for this with each other. In doing so, we mostly try to follow what Paul Simon says in one of his songs:
No, you don’t have to lie to me;
Just give me some tenderness
Beneath your honesty.
I have been privileged to witness many of these poems come into being, and even though I’ve seen them change and grow, I’m still surprised now, in reading them together in this collection, by depth and artfulness I hadn’t quite grasped before. But let me quote from the blurbs Hettie Jones and Stephen Dunn wrote for Geode:
“Ona Gritz writes her life in a sequence of beautifully observed and crafted moments, with superb control, not a line out of line. Disabled yet unsparing of herself, she claims her kin. But her emotional depth, her honesty, and the clarity of her voice will reach every reader–she’s akin to us all. This is a fine collection.”
“ Ona Gritz’s poems prove the unlikely – that it’s possible to dazzle with simplicity, an eloquent, apparently effortless simplicity that poem after poem registers emotional truths. Many poems in Geode explore what it means to live gracefully with a disability. I don’t know if Gritz has perfect pitch, but she has its poetic equivalent; she continually hits the right note, and moves us to a different sense of regard by her precisions and her exquisite sensibility. I love this book.”
Eight and a half years ago, Ona and I met at the Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway, an annual event organized by Peter Murphy. We had both come for the first time, principally because we love and admire Stephen Dunn’s work and wanted the chance to be around him. Stephen leads small, break-out workshops each year at the Getaway and, as it happened, I ended up sitting next to Ona. From the moment she opened her mouth, I felt something special about her. When she spoke to other poets about their work, she always found something to praise genuinely, but she didn’t hang back from saying what wasn’t working for her in the poem, and when something wasn’t working, you still could feel her in the poet’s corner. Then she brought out her own poem, and I was done for.
I’ll close with that poem, letting Ona’s work speak for itself:
Home, I Say
From the wash, I pull a shirt
the size of a dinner napkin,
stretch the opening at the neck
so as not to frighten him
with too long a moment blinded by cloth.
So many mistakes I can make, and I do.
The worst, catching a bit of his skin
between the locked halves of a snap.
Cries can be stoppered most times
by the sudden milk my body makes,
suck and swallow the only sound
beside the rhythmic thump of our chair.
Blue eyes drinking me in, I feel
compelled to name things for him.
Window and bear. Sunlight and reading lamp.
Home, I say, as though this place
is not a splintered boat.
And, Daddy, as though this person
is not already taking leave.