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The Bordighera Poetry Prize

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Contemporary Italian American Writing

1st Runner-up: 2004 Bordighera Poetry Prize
Sponsored by the Sonia Raiziss-Giop Foundation
Paola Corso

for The Laundress Catches Her Breath

Carolyn Guinzio was the winner for West Pullman

Click to: Awards Ceremony, November 17, 2005

Sample Poems: Oxygen for Two | Liquidation | City of Her Youth | The Laundress Catches Her Breath

1st Runner-Up for the Bordighera Prize 2003 and 2004 was Paola Corso. About 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!"

Paola 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:

OXYGEN 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 he‚s 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 you’re expecting.

LIQUIDATION

While standing on that side of the street you say death will
come on an even-numbered day. Definitely Wednesday.
                 (doors closing,
                                  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.
                 (pant panting
                                  breathe)

I puddle the water. I exhale the stone and know the last
moment will be a lungful glide and no paddle.
                 (oarlock & gridlock
                                  sold separately)

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
                                  of permanence)

If you believe you are right, you will
crisscross to stop and call our differences
                 (final)

I keep moving to walk indefinitely
rather than run as long as the air is mine
                 (to give to take)

CITY 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.

THE LAUNDRESS IS NOT WITHOUT BIAS

 She'll wash colors but prefers whites,
         bleaching out streaks of yellow and mottled gray

specks
         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
         because it was tarred from cigarette smoke. She couldn't
get it white no matter how hard

                                                       she scrubbed.

Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005 by Paola Corso. All rights reserved.
From her mss. Oxygen for Two and The Laundress Catches Her Breath

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