Writing on the Walls at Night by Claudia Serea
In this new collection of prose poems, Claudia Serea uses surrealism, irony, and humor to express her experiences from growing up behind the Iron Curtain to emigrating to New York City. She conjures history through nightmares, folk tales, and dreams, remembers war and oppression through the eyes of a child, and escapes to a metropolis as strange as the past she carries with her. These poems are the magical beans the reader will use to escape again and again, discovering hidden portals with each new reading.
Publication Date: February 15, 2022
Praise for WRITING ON THE WALLS
Writing on the Walls at Night is a book of prose poems. Poets from Arthur Rimbaud to Claudia Rankine have used this form to great effect. And while seemingly liberating for the poet who feels constrained by line breaks, it offers its own set of challenges. The major struggle is to keep the poems from becoming too prosaic, to keep the poems poems. Serea does this with skill. In some pieces, she does this with wordplay, “take the sun keys and open the drawer with birdsong. Take the Florida Keys and open the drawer with winter.” In other pieces, she uses repetition, alliteration, and even rhyme to create rhythms in sentences and paragraphs. And throughout the book there is startling imagery, “the grass drinks your voice through thousands of tiny straws.”
--Benjamin Schmitt, At the Inkwell
Claudia Serea’s world is as available to the senses as words can make it. Wheat, cement, earth, cities, and poppies pass through these poems steadily and true: you can trust them. This memoir is built on the unsparing consistency of Serea’s gaze. A loving gaze. Stop anywhere in this book, it will be a real place.
—Andrei Codrescu, author of No Time Like Now (Pitt Series, 2016
Writing on the Walls at Night deserves to be marveled at. Whether describing the personal or the political, the magical or the real, the bitter or the sweet, Claudia Serea evinces a poetic sensibility that is achingly empathetic and thoroughly authentic. There is not a false note in the entire collection. Indeed, these prose poems are among the most sincere, inventive, and moving being written today.
—Howie Good, author of Famous Long Ago
When I say Claudia Serea’s collection is fabulous, I’m using “fabulous” in the Latinate sense of fabula—“known through fable.” These fabulous prose poems conjure the best of fairy and folk tales:
This is the night when the girls wash their faces with dew, and watch how the gates of the world open, and the spirits let them see their future.
We used to tie our rowboats to the lamp posts, and they floated all night next to our windows, waiting for us to jump in.
These are the stories that saucer-eyed audiences gather to hear a poet-witch tell—in deep blue-green forests, under rainbows. These are the yarns our ancestresses spun on cold winter nights when the harvest was done. When I read these fabulae, I’m transported to that place where light weaves the goddesses' dresses of gold. This is a magic book.
—Sharon Mesmer, author of Greetings From My Girlie Leisure Place (Bloof Books), professor of creative writing at NYU and the New School
Claudia Serea faces war with a poet’s heart. The explosions are green and they happen in spring /. . .trees shoot up bullet-shaped buds . . . / The magnolia amasses fat grenades . . . Yet in spite all of the violence of Revolution and genocide, there is beauty and power on every page. Like the statues of Lenin that were turned into something useful: wheelbarrows, / shovels, and spades for digging up the past, Serea transforms history into dark fairy tale, into survival, into pages that all of us should read and treasure.
—Shaindel Beers, author of Secure Your Own Mask, Finalist for the Oregon Book Award