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Only More So / Millicent Borges Accardi

Only More So

By: Millicent Borges Accardi

€12.00 €10.00
Only More So is a collection of lyric poems. Sometimes a bridge in a sad song, other times an echo that threatens to develop then fades, the images blend, twist, and entangle one another: a marriage is a song, then it’s a body, and finally a boat blind in the sea listening for the fog horn. We find ourselves alone in the spaces where atrocity meets the marriage bed—in those silences that are chosen, those that are forced...
ISBN 978-1-910669-28-0
Pub Date Thursday, March 24, 2016
Cover Image © Mistertwister |
Page Count 78
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Only More So is a collection of lyric poems. Sometimes a bridge in a sad song, other times an echo that threatens to develop then fades, the images blend, twist, and entangle one another: a marriage is a song, then it’s a body, and finally a boat blind in the sea listening for the fog horn. We find ourselves alone in the spaces where atrocity meets the marriage bed—in those silences that are chosen, those that are forced, those that must be, and those that kill. “In Prague” is as close to a pure definition of poetry we get, where memory is kinetic action, where language is recorded in the land itself, where the names of things tell us what they really are:

Take me where memory makes my legs move.
Take me where moss holds language.
Take me where we have a name for the things we do.

Carlo Matos
Author of The Secret Correspondence of Loon & Fiasco, It’s Best Not to Interrupt Her Experiments and a School for Fisherman

In this challenging and rewarding book, the poet births grotesque monsters to awaken her audience, and then coaxes them to sleep with remnants of a song. 

Millicent Borges Accardi

Millicent Borges Accardi is the author of four poetry books: Injuring Eternity, Woman on a Shaky Bridge, Practical Love Poems and Only More So. The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Fulbright, CantoMundo, Creative Capacity, the California Arts Council, Fundação Luso-Americana, and the Barbara Deming Foundation (Money for Women), Accardi has been in residence at Yaddo, Milkwood in Cesky Krumlov, Fundación Valparaíso in Spain; Jentel, and Vermont Studio Center. She holds degrees in English literature and writing from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and the University of Southern California (USC).

Portrait of a Girl, 1942

Based on the Jan Lukas photograph of Vendulka Vogelova, taken a few hours before the young girl was transported to a concentration camp.
I am the mirror for one who speaks;
these fresh gaps are wind in the linden trees,
cotton flowers of life. A mirror is not much
for all of us, but if we listen for reflection,
the clear twin face of a groan behind the looking
glass, we hear the cat's hair sounds of all people
grumbling in the same manner about the air
the food the earth the sidewalk.
I am the mirror for all the world's silence,
and the ones who slipped through without drawing
blood, whose suicides number nothing next
to vast doors too tall to reach heaven, locked
forever, whose breaking takes generations,
sometimes, dull copper paint on the back of a lake.
I am the mirror for one who is trembling
like a child who has noticed too much, eyes
hard olive pits. I think about how life
cracks when the vanity glass overturns
our hands. Sharp pints in bars. Uneven edges
of ale. Crisp indignities of foam.
I am the mirror for all who choose
not to speak. I crack
in the dark. I shine in the snow.

The woman thought she would be good,
making sure he washed,
rescuing black stockings, wood pile
scraps. Finding theatre tickets
and collecting parking stubs.
She thought she would be good
at using his soap. Remembering
not to wear perfume and waking
up to call home. In the hotel,
hiding while the hot water ran,
her heart compact as plywood.
She thought she would be good
at belonging. The bulk of her time
a two-by-four dove-tailed into a corner,
getting the best he had to offer.
She thought she had a talent for being aloof.
On him, she made few demands.
When he was away, she imagined
his heart open, fearless
hands holding a piece of wood steady
while a diamond-point blade cut through.

In Prague
Men jackhammer the corner of Jilska and Mickalska,
disturbing the air's intonation. The exposed
sewer pipes, inches from open graves, lie like illness.
As we watch, morning beaten from bodies escapes
in a white whirl of cameos, sand, and milk.
Here, Rodina means nothing.
A skull, embedded in a dirt wall seems, for a moment,
as white and round as bread. Jaws, on metal stands,
tagged with numbers, wait for a turn to be whole again.
Here, dates are rounded to the nearest hundred.
Tarsals, femurs, ulna, open-pored
bones like coral, spinal cord beads
on strings, legs bowed, dried marrow
dark as tunnels, joints like fists, teeth.
Here, there are no pebbles of prayer left behind.
All is traffic, swollen construction, boroughs
and picture taking, stripping the city's bark
blind with concrete.
Not what I want. So, leave this place
and take me where bones don't mean treasure, where the air is heavy, where graves
are planted like corn rows, and evening settles like water.
Take me where stones are full
enough for stones and death is a long rope
wrapped around kin I cannot have,
wisdom for the hungry, thumb-prints
for the innocent, tombs for generations.
Take me where memory makes my legs move.
Take me where moss holds language.
Take me where we have a name for the things we do.

All poems © Copyright Millicent Borges Accardi 2016
Review: Only More So reviewed by Célia Carmen Corder for the Portuguese Tribune, February 15th, 2017

The poetic subject transits between the United States culture, the Portuguese culture and many others, trying to explore transcultural landscapes and with them to create transversalities that cross different cultures and borders.

Review: Only More So reviewed by José Angel Araguz for Queen Mob's Tea House, Feb 27, 2017

The poems in Only More So, stand with the authority of one able to bring the lyrical imagination to bear on human lives and survival. Whatever the element—world history, personal life, health—Accardi fashions poems that evoke and stay true to human life. This search for meaning in the face of hardship, ultimately, is where the heart of this collection lies. What makes the search compelling is Accardi’s ability to linger and meditate on ways that the search can go awry or be subverted.

Interview: "Relationships in the Arts between Mediums and Creators [Q&A]", An interview with Millicent Borges Accord on HAMLINELITLINK, Hamline University, Minnesota, February 2017

Read the interview here>>>>

Review: Only More So reviewed by Jessica A Gonzalez for Galatea Resurrects

Millicent Borges Accardi harmoniously strings together a collection of unabashedly vulnerable, declarative poems in 2016’s Only More So, and its release could not be more timely. Each poem feels like breathing and quiet observing; words slowly weave in and out in natural resolve. Ms. Borges’ speaker, like a doctor in the examination room, performs quiet palpation on the reader—her patient—feeling for nerve, for crying, for laughing. The voice in these poems reads at once girlish and maternal, and yet, also reveals itself capable of universality. Only More So expertly covers personal terrain (“The Well,” “Arrythmia,” “Buying Sleep,”) while also engaging vaster territories (“Portrait of a Girl, 1942”). These poems will ring out and continue to be relevant as long as humans are intricate, tangled, and of this world.

Only More So, then, is undoubtedly a collection of condensed, flowing portraits. Comprised often of walls of text as opposed to sets of shorter stanzas, the poems manage a stream-of-consciousness, slice-of-life style that erupts and flows like a ballad. “Arrythmia”, for example, tows the line between the consistent solemnity that surrounds her husband’s condition, and the dutiful attitude the speaker undertakes as his wife, throughout this period in the couple’s relationship. It is comforting and cathartic, and woefully honest. In the beginning. Ms. Borges alludes to the familiar, hopeful attitude loved ones of someone just diagnosed with a long-term illness may have during its first stages:

            In the early days of the disease,
            There is nothing else to call it,
            We were giddy with guessing
            Treatment, symptoms and hope.
            We knew there was a pattern
            And measures we could take.

The hope grows slowly into subtle desperation; a thinning line. You can almost hear the speaker’s breathing quickening:

            ...A younger body heals
quickly, and each new year there are new
Drugs. Every time we blink there is a lab study,
Or a control group. There is time, more
Than time if you had gotten this at 70 or 80.

The speaker’s dispassionate tone downplays her investment and her ultimately faltering hope. The poem never falls into an utter despair, though, and the most power is held within what is not said. The final lines of the poem suggest that there is still so much they have not done, and still can do:

            There were countries to explore, battles
            To be fought, languages to adopt and twist
            And make into our own.

Perhaps the disease is the language the couple, or at least the speaker, tries “to adopt and twist and make into [their/her] own”. The complicated feelings of dealing with the disease of a loved one, especially that of one’s partner, are examined exceptionally well in just a few lines. This last line is my favorite, in fact, in the whole collection.

Other notable poems include “The Well,” “Amazing Grace,” and “The Last Borges.” All three poems recount personal intimacy and individual weakness through piercing tactile imagery, lyrical movement, and a resounding, glittering, and thoughtful energy. “The Well,” in particular, offers a glimpse of a certain speaker, passive in her ultimate submissive position to her surroundings:

            She focuses on a dark place,
            A solid rock. A narrow dusk
            Somewhere with just enough
            Room for her below
            The ground. Harder than granite.            
            She searches for a view
            Above the roar of bulbs
            Flashing, of spots,
            Of the color green.
            This is her contest
            With sleep, with pins
            And needles, with the
            Boredom of waiting
            For someone to help.

The speaker is constantly “searching” without moving, further grounding an image of passive resistance. Understanding she is in need of help, she waits in “boredom” instead of taking it upon herself to search and find. Instead of stubbornness, though, this move on the speaker’s part reads more as an admirable weakness. “Boredom” implies a certain self-awareness; she understands, perhaps, what she can do, but chooses to act contrarily. And in choice, lies strength. At the end of “The Well,” the speaker listens to a voice that tells her to “Climb up. Slide down,” and she listens. The poem reveals the power of choice and its way of conquering passiveness that is ultimately hindering.

Only More So is a collection that I would like to keep close to me as 2017 continues to unfold in all its chaos and dizziness. Ms. Borges’ poems remind me that it is okay to feel vulnerable, swept off my feet, and in limbo—that we still have choice, bravery, and might at arm’s reach… that everything can be observed, breathed in, and battled as needed.

Jessica A. Gonzalez is an editorial assistant and freelance writer and translator based in New Jersey and New York. She recently graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in English and also writes poetry. 

Review: Only More So reviewed by Michael Northern for WordGathering, June issue 2016:  

"Readers familiar with Accardi's work know that the almost moonstruck effect of sexuality – wanted or not – on the speakers who populate her poems is an ongoing theme. Here, she metamorphoses the old myth once more by making Apollo not a force from without but something within that the poem's subject is unable to free herself of. It is subtly done and Accardi only reveals the source of her poem when she writes.

Roots appear
at her elbows, descending downwards, 
as she digs for lost stones in the earth, 
While her breasts, entrapped
by feathered husks, swell full
of the wooden sap now running
inside her.

Accardi posits a situation or even an opening line and follows it through to see where it leads her. In her most successful poems, such as "Start Here" the reader who follows her is lead to a point where they find themselves standing on an emotional ledge.

A list of some of Accardi's first lines not only makes us readers want to "start here" and dive into the poem, but almost impels the poet in us to want to finish writing the poem on our own:

"It's Sunday and he makes the mistake / of brandy" ("Renovation")

"I don't trust anyone/ and love fewer than that" ("Mother Ditch")

"Seemingly overnight her breast grew/ fat and the moles appeared" ("Ordinary")

Accardi's strategy works best when the poet follows a more or less linear trajectory. In the poems where the progression is associative, the reader sometimes wonders how they got to where they have ended up and why they are there.

While the tendency among many contemporary poets is to rely on the context of an entire book to imbue individual poems with greater depth of meaning, this is not the case with Only More So. Though there are certainly recurring themes and images, the individual poems stand (or fall) on their own. This may be old school, but it works.

One of the most fruitful poems from the point of view of a disability literary journal like Wordgathering is "Under Different Conditions." The poem works through the repetition of the first words in the beginning line of a new stanza, "They say…."

After the first line enters a new concern, the lines that follow pile on images supporting the original observation, as in the second stanza:

They say it changes form, 
hiding around corners of the 
bloodstream, inside the bones
of imagination, in the minds 
of worry, between the lines
of every poem you read.

In the final four lines of the poem, the third person pronoun switches to second person pivoting responsibility for response, "'Write it; you can say this.'/ Breast cancer." The poem not only toss out the many literal reactions that people have upon hearing someone has received what could be a life threatening diagnoses, but, as in the stanza above, illustrate how it works on the mind "inside the bones of the imagination."

Another strong poems not appearing in a previous collection is "The World in 2001." The opening stanzas acquire particular significance in the contemporary polarized American political climate:

My Dad and me, we made fun of slackers
and weepers in Chelsea. People who didn't 
make it to Columbia. Workers who lost
jobs. Girls who had babies out of wedlock. 
Folks who couldn't save, didn't pay American

Express off a the end of the month or invested in bad
government bonds for the future. People who took out
equity loans and didn't pay off their first mortgage. 

People who collected unemployment, didn't bathe
or shave, who ate fast food hamburgers and didn't
wipe their feet when entering a house. Fathers
who abandoned children, mothers on welfare. Homeless
who should just get it together and try harder.

As in the previous poem, "The World in 2001" works off of a litany of concrete examples, but this time supporting one central idea. The poem that turns on the phrase, "We thought…that New York and the Twin Towers would always be there."

If the similarities of the two poems above give the impression that Accardi, lacks versatility, that impression would be totally misleading. One of her most haunting poems –at once both visceral and etherial – "Like Nameless Skyscrapers," the poet's re-imagining of the Daphne and Apollo myth. The poem begins:

She carries him, still, 
in her body, Embedded, 
her lover soars somewhere
between pores and blood, rubbing
like broken glass. She owns
this enduring ache: his 
inside hers, working, 
working to take flight.

Readers familiar with Accardi's work know that the almost moonstruck effect of sexuality – wanted or not – on the speakers who populate her poems is an ongoing theme. Here, she metamorphoses the old myth once more by making Apollo not a force from without but something within that the poem's subject is unable to free herself of. It is subtly done and Accardi only reveals the source of her poem when she writes.

Roots appear
at her elbows, descending downwards, 
as she digs for lost stones in the earth, 
While her breasts, entrapped
by feathered husks, swell full
of the wooden sap now running
inside her.

Though the poem leads to resolution, it is not one open to easy interpretation. Is the solution to avoiding this invasion of the blood, to cease being human? Does holding close to the earth or returning to our roots mean giving up aspirations or flights of imagination? One of the pleasures of the poem is the possibilities it allows.

A hallmark of Accardi's previous work is its commitment to the exploration of what it means to be a Portuguese American, and Accardi fans will not be disappointed by her latest book. Several of the poems in Only More So were even included in the dauntingly named Gavea-Brown Book of Portuguese American Poetry and Writers of the Portuguese Diaspora in the United States and Canada: An Anthology. Among these, "Swing Open" stand out in particular. While images of the poet's father take precedence in the poem, other relatives including aunts, uncles, grandmother and a grandfather who "hid in a ship's barrel, accused of murder in Petrepetzia" weave in and out of unrhymed couplets to create a landscape of which Accardi says:

How delicious

The world was when grandmother shook
the linen table cloth into the wind.

When readers learn that a poet one has enjoyed in the past comes out with a new book, it is always both with anticipation and with the fear that somehow this new book will not measure up to expectations. Followers of Millicent Borges Accardi have no reason for concern. Not only does Only More So provide a comfortable transition by actually including some of the poets best poems from the past, it takes the themes that her readers are familiar with and extends them. In the process of stretching herself as a poet, Accardi plays with some new forms – some with more success than others – but she never takes those who know her too far from home.

Michael Northen is the editor of Wordgathering and an editor with Jennifer Bartlett and Sheila Black of the anthology Beauty is a Verb: the New Poetry of Disability. He is also an editor of the upcoming anthology of disabiity short fiction, The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked (Cinco Puntos Press).

Review: Only More So reviewed by Nicelle Davis:

I have enjoyed Millicent Borges Accardi’s poetry for years. She is so clean with her poetic intentions. Every poem begins with a clear exposition and then unravels into pure lyricism. Her poems are full of craft; they have a distinct architecture. I think I could recognize her poetry solely by its voice. It is a great gift to be a poet with such “a voice.” Her new collection, Only More So, explores the big subjects such as war, dysphoria, economic / social inequities, religion, faith, and the loss of faith.

I was fortunate to be at a conference this weekend with a hotel room to myself. This proved to be invaluable because Accardi’s poetry must be read aloud. The music in these lines is exquisite, the word-play is witty, and the poems content—well, it is illuminating. These poems show the best and the worst of humanity. Even more exciting (or uncomfortable), these poems show how often the worst of humanity comes from its best attributes. The poem “The World in 2001” literally took my breath away with it unflinching look at the lack of self-awareness in the United States before 9/11. This poem, in contrast to the hyper conscious poems about war and violence, really packs an emotional punch.  “The World in 2001” opens with the lines:

“My Dad and me, we made fun of slackers
And weeper in Chelsea. People who lost
Jobs. Girls who had babies out of wedlock.
Folks who couldn’t save, didn’t pay American

Express of…

Compare these lines to title poem “Only More So,” which reads:

You see it was very much like this.
In the flatland dregs, the fat-coated
soldiers knocked at the door, so a woman
was forced, with a gritty smile,
to invite them in, to sit by her
yellow fire, to swallow up her walls.

This collection is an incredible exploration of empathy—how it works, how it is needed. This collection does important work, while at the same time delighting the reader. Every poem had its own incredible ending—Accardi, like a master, lands every ending beautifully. It is worth reading this book solely for its zinger lines, but it is more than a collection of one liners—it is a book that tells the story of growth—of going from naïve judgement (religion) to complicated understanding (spirituality)

Review: Only More So reviewed in the Portuguese Times, April issue 2016 (in Portuguese)

Only More So”, novo livro de Millicent Borges Accardi

A escritora luso-americana Millicent Borges Accardi acaba de lançar o seu terceiro livro “Only More So”, que pode ser obtido online através da “Only More So” (Salmon Poetry) é uma coletânea de poemas. . .

Read the review in full here>>>>

Review: Only More So reviewed by Sam Pereira for Poetry International

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!

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).

Review: Only More So reviewed by Lisa Hartz, Executive Director, Seven Cities Writers Project, "An Entrancing Encounter"

Accardi is the rebel-muse. The wise traveler. The Aunt who always brought you good books along with sweets from a faraway place. The one with the best stories, who seems to be listening carefully even as she’s sharing with you what she’s learned, what she’s still struggling to understand about the wide, marvelous and confounding world. 

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