Only More So by Millicent Borges Accardi
Salmon Poetry, 2016, €12
Reviewed by Sam Pereira
When one first picks up a copy of Only More So, the new collection of poetry by Millicent Borges Accardi from Salmon Poetry in Ireland, there is an overwhelming expectation that delicacy is about to mingle with honesty, resulting in some magnificent looking words as the children from that union. With that to hold on to, as well as the book’s surprisingly magnetic artwork, the reader is immediately hit with an understanding that Ms. Borges Accardi is not new to the challenges that contemporary poetry serves up.
The first poem, “On a Theme by William Stafford,” shows, among other things, an immediate sense of gratitude for those who have come before. Even dusty, old Wallace Stevens is made new again here. As the reader gets further into the book and discovers some of Ms. Borges Accardi’s more urgent themes, a prescient respect continues to build for the skills it takes to pull off truly fine work, such as this, in a genre many people seem determined to look quizzically upon, if they look at all.
These are the poems of a person fully engaged in the 21st Century and all of its endless dramas, sometimes political in nature, sometimes personal, but always maintaining a sense of true ancestral history. Surprisingly, some of Ms. Borges Accardi’s power as a poet comes when these two approaches meet head on, as in the delicious poem “The World in 2001.” It is certainly true that, for those of us who were cognitively aware and physically a part of that time, the year alone is enough to conjure great sadness and regret. However, here, Ms. Borges Accardi masterfully includes the unexpected from that time, along with the obvious examples of things related, directly or indirectly, to 9/11. The resulting bond that occurs between reader and word is both human and humane at once.
On a far more personal level, the poet wraps us up against her immediate world—so much so, that the reader can almost sense the breathing, the expectations, and the regrets of what it can be to survive in today’s setting. In particular, the poem “Under Different Conditions” brings all of the aforementioned elements to the table. It is a poem that offers a powerful list of emotional responses—used by virtually everyone at some point in their lives—and yet, the reader is left with only questions, until the very end of the poem, as to just why these responses are so apropos.
Finally, let’s address the fairly well-known biographical fact that Ms. Borges Accardi is a Portuguese American writer who, like so many of us with similar sounding surnames, seems unable or unwilling to let that point be dropped by the side of an increasingly overcrowded American road. It remains a part of the cocktail running through our veins and arteries every moment of every day. In the poem “The Last Borges,” the poet addresses her father in the final stanza by stating what, for many of us, remains the ultimate mantra for these times:
But, the only Portuguese words
you ever gave me do not stand for love.
Que queres, que queres.
What do you want, what do you want.
The only answer that should come to mind for that question, once the reader puts down this splendid new work of poetry is: Everything!
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Sam Pereira has appeared earlier in the print edition of Poetry International (Double issue #18/19). He attended California State University, Fresno (BA) and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop (MFA). His books include A Café in Boca (Tebot Bach, 2007), The Marriage of the Portuguese—Expanded Edition (Tagus Press, 2012), Dusting on Sunday, (Tebot Bach, 2012), and Bad Angels (Nine Mile Press, 2015).