Oakland does, that’s who.
Oakland reads local Mg Roberts’ poetry from her first book: Not So, Sea.
Mg Roberts met me on a rainy weeknight, with her seven-month-pregnant belly and her I-just-got-published glow. We talked about her daughters and the rocks she checks their pockets for every time she does laundry and her geologist husband who instilled this early-on collection and inquiry. Her book was done last year, she tells me, until the writers of the Oakland Youth Poet Laureate contest she judged made her feel ashamed at her own cowardice. They added on another year of revisions because of their brave and naked honesty. She speaks of the textual battle with monsters and monstrosities in respect to mother\daughter relationships and experiencing life as an immigrant. She describes her home this morning where her younger daughter runs naked through the house with a book of poetry with a picture of other naked people on the front and a pen in the other hand, as Mg chases her past the mud-splattered dog. In addition to being a mother and a writer, Mg teaches Short Fiction and Composition at several local colleges, works with Kelsey Street Press and I run into her at literary events all around Oakland. Roberts says all of these things like they are nothing out of the ordinary. She is humble and inspiring. She hands me a copy of her book and thanks me for listening.
She doesn’t tell me that in my hands there is a beating heart, an intelligent, lovely and inventive creation of words that will keep me up until the morning reading. Mg Robert’s book Not So, Sea sinks in heavy and beautiful. Asking questions about being from someplace else, about finding a language for yourself and your family, about how a mother is a piece of her daughter and her daughter a part of her; the poetry in this book brings the reader into an intimate and true place that is raw and honest.
And what the hell is “experimental” poetry you ask? It is Mg Robert’s incorporation of quotes and the use of labeled sections like chapters within the book, or the inclusion of facts gathered about Barbie in “Helsinki, Finland” stating that the plastic bitch “would lack the 17 to 22 percent body fat require for a woman to menstruate.” “Experimental” means the words work for you and are the inside of you put into a shareable form on the page. The book’s construction is careful and deliberate, exposing the work and the heart that went into it. Roberts writes, “this is how I arrived, cut,” and the reader arrives in the same condition, unsure why yet and consequently more engaged. We are enveloped by the story, going where the narrator goes. We see “as the coconut grove filled with red earth becomes a sea of hard-shelled insects.” We “approach light, watch it break apart like bones.”
Mg Roberts’ book Not So, Sea is available online through Small Press Distribution’s and is forthcoming on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles online.