"Perillo's poetic persona is funny, tough, bold, smart, and righteous. A spellbinding storyteller and a poet who makes the demands of the form seem as natural as a handshake, she pulls readers into the beat and whirl of her slyly devastating descriptions."—Booklist
"Whoever told you poetry isn't for everyone hasn't read Lucia Perillo. She writes accessible, often funny poems that border on the profane."—Time Out New York
The poetry of Lucia Perillo is fierce, tragicomic, and contrarian, with subjects ranging from coyotes and Scotch broom to local elections and family history. Formally braided, Perillo gathers strands of the mythic and mundane, of media and daily life, as she faces the treachery of illness and draws readers into poems rich in image and story.
When you spend many hours alone in a room
you have more than the usual chances to disgust yourself—
this is the problem of the body, not that it is mortal
but that it is mortifying. When we were young they taught us
do not touch it, but who can keep from touching it,
from scratching off the juicy scab? Today I bit
a thick hangnail and thought of Schneebaum,
who walked four days into the jungle
and stayed for the kindness of the tribe—
who would have thought that cannibals would be so tender?
Lucia Perillo's Inseminating the Elephant (Copper Canyon Press, 2009) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and received the Bobbitt award from the Library of Congress. She lives in Seattle, Washington.
Perillo has long lived with, and written about, her struggle with debilitating multiple sclerosis. Her bracing sixth book of poems, published concurrently with her debut story collection, takes an unflinching, though not unsmiling, look at mortality. Perillo has a penchant for dark humor, for jokes that stick. She muses, in one grimly amusing poem, on "those who have drifted through thus far of their allotted/ fifty or seventy or ninety years on Earth/ with no disasters happening," using poetry as a way to "meditate against my envy/ aimed at those who drift inside the bubble of no trouble." But Perillo isn't petty; for her, despite the joking tone, the stakes are always high. The book is full of practical advice, including instructions on "The freak-out" which "wants wide open space,/ though the rules call for containment // there are the genuine police to be considered/ which is why I recommend the empty vestibule." It's also full of a kind of transcendent resolve only harsh experience can bring: "no matter what has happened since,/... / the sadness of the bound-to-happen/ the ecstasy of the fragile moment,/ I know one night I narrowed my gaze/ and attended to my captaining, while the sea/ gave me more serious work than either love or speech."