2004 Bordighera Poetry Prize
Sponsored by the Sonia Raiziss-Giop Foundation
The Laundress Catches Her Breath
Guinzio was the winner for West Pullman
to: Awards Ceremony, November 17,
Sample Poems: Oxygen for Two | Liquidation
| City of Her Youth
| The Laundress Catches Her Breath
Runner-Up for the Bordighera Prize 2003 and 2004 was Paola Corso.
Corso's work, Donna Masini wrote of her 2003 manuscript, Oxygen
for Two: "It is the strangeness of Paola Corso's poems
that arrests me. That feeling of I-wouldn't-have-thought-of this
one experiences while reading her. These poems and prose poems
are spare, sometimes stark. Lyric in nature, they explore the
boundaries of our most intimate relationships. In their oddness,
their halting, quirky rhythms, their gorgeous music, they sing!"
Corso is a New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow and
two-time Bordighera Poetry Prize First Runner-up chosen by Donna
Masini for Oxygen for Two (2003) and The Laundress Catches
Her Breath (2004). Her first book of poems Death by Renaissance
(Bottom Dog Press, 2004) is set in her native Pittsburgh river
town where her Italian immigrant grandfather and father worked
in the steel mill. Pittsburgh Magazine called her "an Italian
John Wideman who captures the voice and rhythms of her remembered
world" and the Indiana Review said "few books address
the anxiety of moving between classes and the assimilation of
second-generation immigrants with such urgency and poetic capability
as Paola Corso's first collection of poems. The myriad voices,
seductive tone, and highly imaginative abstractions make it a
pleasure to read."
Sample poems from Oxygen for Two & The Laundress
Catches Her Breath:
FOR TWO -- in memory of Mario Procopio Corso
The life he breathes is not his own. He inhales
the airy Os, oh so elemental on the periodic chart times two,
exhales for a life within, one that kick slushes a cavity of water,
cribbed in a cage of bones with a wet receiving blanket and coughed
lullaby huff of rhythm, the twittering sound in his tube, those
rattle-shaken notes that bring sotto voce sleep to his night of
day while the life within sucks tank by the liter, learning past
the wheeze to breathe on its own or hold on with him. My father
says hes going to lick it and cut off the life within. Leave
his body alone. This is the ending we rehearse during visits home.
This is the beginning that answers our prayers, what to expect
when youre expecting.
standing on that side of the street you say death will
come on an even-numbered day. Definitely Wednesday.
everything must go)
If the chicken crosses to get to the other side, I say it could
be odd if at all and maybe a Tuesday. With lots of daisies.
(it bankrupts me,
it bankrupts me not)
Your penny-wise sunglasses screen upstream so you can
ultravioletly predict the end will be quite labored. Panting.
I puddle the water. I exhale the stone and know the last
moment will be a lungful glide and no paddle.
(oarlock & gridlock
Somehow you have measured without proper calculation because you
are overdressed for the occasion. Please do
(take your gloves off
this is not a formal)
My clue is a scarf inside the gate loosely wrapped for life
after death. I choose to accept it as a sign of something light
(verdant, the green
If you believe you are right, you will
crisscross to stop and call our differences
keep moving to walk indefinitely
rather than run as long as the air is mine
(to give to take)
OF HER YOUTH
She watches herself disappear
in the sky with the smoke
as cufflinked businessmen
unbutton their sooty shirts,
change them, make themselves
white again before eating
their noontime meal--pickled
something or other and a wad
of meat. Their eyes filled
with the promise of flavor.
Hers closed to the sting
from their smokestacks, waiting
to reopen and let the undying gaze
of city streetlamps below guide her up.
LAUNDRESS IS NOT WITHOUT BIAS
She'll wash colors but prefers whites,
© 2003, 2004, 2005
by Paola Corso. All rights reserved.
bleaching out streaks of yellow and mottled gray
of grease on her apron after a shift at the fryer, stains
that can't hide in dyes of hunter green or loganberry as if ducking
into the bushes. No.
She'll take them on
face to face like the girls she fought after school
and snapped in two.
She walked away with a loose tooth that she yanked out
it was tarred from cigarette smoke. She couldn't
get it white no matter how hard
From her mss. Oxygen for Two and The Laundress Catches