Holly Prado's These Mirrors Prove It
Or do I?
It's a paradox. When I delve into Holly Prado's collection, These Mirrors Prove It, Selected Poems and Prose, 1970-2003, I become terrified and exhilarated!
Please don't misunderstand. The language is clear, the images are lush and tactile (a rare treat in modern poetry), and the tone as forthright as Prado's Mid-Western roots might indicate. This collection has many strong points, mostly positive, but the most compelling point is this: It's apparent-at least for the last 33 years-Prado has existed very comfortably and simultaneously in both the waking world and the one just beneath the skin…where dichotomy begins.
But dichotomy is fascinating. And so is Prado. She writes about experiences that are universally familiar, but rarely spoken of, except in private. There is clarity, and a tension so palpable it invokes a yearning to sink into the moment with her, as in the prose pieces (11,12) from "Introductions: 15 Morning Love Stories":
I touch you, hesitantly. my own hand,
which I trust, could curl into a fist
before I have time to warn it. your shoulder
moves your arm to hold me. it could shrug. It
could break down a door.
I rub your back. I've put oil on my hands…I rub
you and I have wanted to do this. it has
occurred to me some nights when
we've been apart, when I've fallen asleep, alone
I've wished for your back-to lie against it
and let my breasts stir with your breathing.
you started this today by rubbing my back
a little, which gave me the courage to approach
yours. I move my fingers as if I'm learning a new island.
The dualities of the inner and outer worlds are perfectly illustrated in the previous passages. The fear is counterbalanced with simple and graceful narrative. The honesty is shocking, and the sharing of the experience is too familiar to be anything but.
The paradox deepens as years pass. As Prado moves into the 1980's, more and more symbolism appears, along with the theme of renewal, the cycle of life: death and rebirth. Greek gods and goddesses, lunar and animal totems are paired with elements of the universal human condition (in this case, the feminine), but again flavored with Prado's forthright and beguiling words, as in the poem "Ariadne Speaks of Dionysus, of Life Beyond the Old Story:"
We begin again, every morning.
One daughter's braid has grown
as long as her spine.
I am proud of what I see in her
that is in me.
Daughter, the bird who has cracked the shell,
who dances her wings along the grass.
"Mother," she calls to me," he will come today,"
and she means
Dionysus who is her father and husband and
her brother, her children.
Spring, coming and coming;
whatever season blows in the trees,
The green effort bursts
not just once,
but every morning.
Prado at this point in time has learned to identify and even live within the symbol and its meaning, as her vision of the outer and inner worlds starts to converge.
Clarity comes with time. So does acceptance of the struggle toward growth, which Prado has mastered. Her poetic 'second sight' or whatever one might call it continues to develop, even as she tries to explain her evolution as a writer in the 1998 essay, "Where Have I Been?" Prado draws a parallel between clearing away the dead plants in her garden with the shedding of certain elements in her writing style. When she is done, she says:
"Now the garden looks more like me
coming to the end of a bad time instead
of the bad time itself. I haven't gotten rid
of my own personality, but I've made peace.
Now, I can write. There's a cleaner, less cluttered
person available for the page."
Prado has accepted her evolved vision. It's the dual state some writers fail to master, for fear of losing their 'edge' or tenuous hold on three dollar words, and fancy literary gimmicks which never withstand the test of time the way Prado's work, much like Rilke's has…and will.
On a final note, my favorite poems were the ones Prado wrote to her husband Harry Northup, a fellow poet. I've often felt that artists of the same discipline could not exist in an intimate relationship, and I am very happy to be proven wrong.
Holly Prado, These Mirrors Prove It, Selected Prose and Poems 1970-2003 2004, Cahuenga Press, ($20.00) IBSN: 0-9715519-3-6, pages: 427.
Holly Prado grew up in Nebraska and Michigan but has made her home in Los Angeles since 1960. Her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous publications for the past thirty years. These Mirrors Prove It is her eight book.