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Only More So

Millicent Borges Accardi

ISBN: 978-1-910669-28-0

Page Count: 78

Publication Date: Thursday, March 24, 2016

Cover Artwork: © Mistertwister |

Click to play audio "Buying Sleep" from 'Only More So'. Read by Milice... play
Click to play audio "Faith" from 'Only More So'. Read by Millicent Bor... play
Click to play audio "In Prague" from 'Only More So'. Read by Millicent... play

About this Book

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

Author Biography

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).

Read a sample from this book

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 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 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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