Thursday, November 29, 2007



(PressPress, 2002)

MML Bliss’s MOONSHINE contains twelve poems that span alcoholism, teenage pregnancy, Roman Polanski, Picasso and petty, neighbourhood disputes. Bliss’s harsh, colloquial and raucous language captures the jagged edges of a dog-eat-dog world, almost beyond the scope of laws and decency:
1. cooper
old rita tells the residents meeting i’m a murderer,
shout at my dog, wander drunk in the street
sound off at all hours. she says they call me
cooper because I’m the home-brewer.
she pokes iris, who’s new here
(he’s in those units where you are.)
like she ought to be scared.
that rita, she’s the one should be packing it.
& she goes on. poor old jean. him on one side
REM daniel on the other. she doesn’t feel safe.
she says their music going doof doof
makes her teeth feel like they’re
about to fall out. rita the man-eater
what have i done to her! nothing.
(from ‘moonshine’, p 11)

Yet at the most unexpected moments, the poems lay themselves bare, revealing a vulnerable underbelly or an open throat, trusting in the reader to understand what is and is not being said.
the dog has led us up the mountain
& we have followed her like puppies
she is my pack. we speak the wordless
language of old friends.

look out & see the silence
sit close with us
forest valley river flats
high tide in the bay

see where we have carved our names
on the earth like lovers

in the dog country
where springs well & water is life

drink from the spring with us
spirit/ dog
in the country
where my spirit sings
(from ‘spirit/ dog walk’, p. 4)

The dogs in these poems bark and growl and show their fangs, but scratch the right place and tails wag, eyes turn liquid and soft, leaving their prints throughout Bliss’s words, while on every poem, a glimpse of the moon.
moon’s spirit shuts the door behind me
fire on the horizon. no more ethanol kisses
full moon promises.
all that remains, a casket of ashes.
(from ‘full moon’, p 10)

The cover image by Jennifer Maguire shows a rickety rollercoaster rail angling towards a dark and bristly moon, echoing the poems’ longing to engage with the unattainable. MML Bliss’s poems are brave and unafraid, and together comprise a collection that leaves an indelible, muddied paw-print on one’s mind and soul.


Ivy Alvarez is the author of Mortal (Washington, DC: Red Morning Press, 2006). A MacDowell and Hawthornden Fellow, she was recently awarded a grant from the Australia Council for the Arts and the Welsh Academy to write poems for her second manuscript. Her poetry is published worldwide and online.

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