In Catherine Mamo’s debut poetry collection, is a woman quietly buried, like dormant grass under months of snow, in a routine agenda: make meals, water the cactus, turn the baby, pay the mortgage, and pick up son at 2:00 pm from swimming. However, this poetry hosts an extraordinary, worldly voice that lives beyond the banality of chores, and understands the immensity of origin and coexistence. Whether Mamo is observing the evolution of a hoverfly or is contrasting her picket fence life with a scene of the Ganges “where wild dogs gnaw on charred corpses” she installs a remarkable balance between the concrete and imaginable. Where the mundane blurs and confuses the self, a mother escapes through her poet exoskeleton. Or is she a poet with a mother’s exoskeleton? A woman who wakes in the night holding scribbled notes feels the earth pulsate around her, finds meditation in laundry and snow; in the Ma — the space between.
Paperwhite is sound-rich with hums and chants, where butterflies are harmonic and “coyotes howl like ambulances”, and where a woman stands at the intersection of her life: remembering passed lovers and escaped dangers, searching for mid-life enlightenment, and projecting the loneliness of aging.