Stages: Selected Poems


168 pages
ISBN 1-55071-050-8
DDC C811'.54






Reviewed by Beryl Baigent

Beryl Baigent is a poet; her published collections include Absorbing the
Dark, Hiraeth: In Search of Celtic Origins, Triptych: Virgins, Victims,
Votives, and Mystic Animals.


This book’s cover art by Gemma Forliano, which depicts a white-shirted
figure whose head is a bouquet of colorful flowers, effectively sets up
the surreal landscape that readers will encounter inside. The collection
draws on Melfi’s six previous published books of poetry and includes
excerpts from an adult fiction titled A Dialogue with Masks. The
chronological arrangement allows the reader to trace the poet’s
artistic development over a period of 13 years, from 1976 to 1989.

Like a surrealist painter, Melfi produces fantastic and dreamlike
images, such as those used to describe a wedding: “The bride is
something like a typewriter / The microphone being like a groom.” In
“Sleepwalking,” a person’s feet are “machine guns.” In such
lines as “your smile is unlike the rim of a wine bottle,” Melfi
makes the point that the image of an object must not be confused with
something tangible and real.

Yet in the midst of the incongruity and absurdity of surrealism, Melfi
seems aware of a spiritual cosmology. She discerns a connection between
human and landscape: “Near you, a mountain knows its place. / Without
you, it can turn around and slap me suddenly.” For this poet, “[t]he
tulip is a chalice filled with the blood of holy spirits / infiltrating
our very non-poetical fleshy systems with honesty / Honestly loving
every minute of what there is / Growing out of the earth.”

Melfi’s landscape touches the unconscious, and takes the reader to a
different reality.


Melfi, Mary., “Stages: Selected Poems,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,