Karen M. Peluso will be signing copies of her chapbook of poems, The Mother-Face in the Mirror, at Bay Street Trading Company, 808 Bay Street in downtown Beaufort. The bookstore will be celebrating Beaufort’s “A Night on the Town” on Friday, December 7 and author signings will be from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Karen’s book of poems winner of the University of South Carolina’s Poetry Initiative 2006 Chapbook Contest was published by he publishing arm of the University of South Carolina, Stepping Stones Press.Kwame Dawes, contest judge, Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing and Director of the USC Arts Institute at USC Columbia says: “Karen Peluso's gathering of poems, The Mother-Face in the Mirror, has a raw tenderness to it that we leave the pages at once overwhelmed by what we have been made to witness and still somehow elevated by the experience. Her gift is the ability to discover just the right detail to take is to the heart of the matter. This is no small gift for a poet. In the very first lines of the collection, we are alerted to the fact that detail is everything to this poet:
In the time a storm strips
cherry blossoms from a tree,
another woman dies
the victim of herself.
But these are not ordinary poems of confession, but poems that seem to understand that the speed in which information hurtles through our world today can be reflected in the elliptical leaps and unusual connections that can happen in poetry. In this sense, her work is a celebration of the imagination. Her poetry is beautifully written and elegantly crafted:
In nightmares, the President’s assassin stalks me
like a hit man. In daylight, I see his high-powered
rifle aimed at me from windows,
trees, the attic of our garage.”
Karen Peluso may be known more readily for her recent exhibit of photographs at the Beaufort Art Association Gallery. A film photographer who makes gelatin silver prints (black and white images on fiber-base paper) in her darkroom, in the last year she learned and began perfecting the old world masters’ technique of hand-coloring photographs with oils. But Karen has been writing longer than she’s been taking pictures, and listed among her credits are the Journal of New Jersey Poets, Paterson Literary Review, the new renaissance, Mona Poetica, Apostrophe and other publications. A Carrie McCray Poetry Contest winner and multiple winner of the Lowcountry Weekly/Firehouse Books’ annual poetry contests, she admits that she almost didn’t enter USC’s chapbook contest last fall. She had been preparing for her BAA exhibit and almost convinced herself not to submit so that she could stay focused on the photography. But ultimately, she decided to take a darkroom break so that she could edit and polish a number of poems. Many were those that she had written over the past twenty years about the impact on her life by various family situations. She ultimately sent 27 poems to the contest and was notified a few weeks later of her award. Peluso says in the year since the results were announced, the response has been overwhelming and very supportive.
One of her supporters is Marjory Wentworth, South Carolina Poet Laureate and author of Noticing Eden and Despite Gravity, who says of Peluso’s work: “These poems do not flinch or back away from the hardest human truths – a mother's infidelities, the abandonment of her children and her ultimate suicide. But there is redemption in this collection of poetry, which articulates and celebrates our capacity to survive and love, despite our losses and collective pain.”
Constance Quarterman Bridges, author of the poetry collection Lions Don’t Eat Us, says, “Karen Peluso writes precisely and movingly about her mother’s pain, small joys and suicide. These are more than poems about suicide; here is an unflinching look at the mystery of the human condition and that reasoning which may never be solved. This collection makes us realize that a woman is always child to the mother and never can wipe… clean that tie. The poet also writes about a mother shunning her and a father who…like he lost his voice again and cannot look at the face of the daughter that reminds him of his wife. These poems lead us on a roller coaster of family emotions. We feel the writer’s soreness and see her trying to protect herself, even my trash, and not knowing what cannot be fixed, however, buds sprouted…roses promised to bloom. These beautifully written poems are not to be missed.”
Poet Peter E. Murphy, author of Stubborn Child and one of Karen’s mentors, writes, “There’s so much that can go wrong in a family it’s amazing anyone survives. Mothers who leave their marriages for new lovers, chain-smoking fathers who scream goddamn, goddamn, and the children, desperate for half of anything, who house both parents’ secrets, hoping to keep what’s left from falling apart. “Will you speak up?” one of the mothers in Karen Peluso’s fine chapbook yells, and she does, in poems that will break your heart a couple of times over before piecing it back together, a little weathered, a little twisted, perhaps missing a fragment or two, but strangely stronger for the reading.”
“Perpetual Meditation,” a Peluso black and white image taken in Savannah’s Bonavenure Cemetery, appears on the cover of the book. Karen will be signing The Mother-Face in the Mirror at Bay Street Trading Company, along with photographer Gary Geboy, who will be signing copies of his new book, Transfer of Grace: Images of the Lowcountry. For further information call 524-2000.