"Sky the Oar," Stacy Nigliazzo's second full-length poetry collection, contains 52 poems in four sections. These poems are gems--and gem-like, each poem has been created by a compression of words into unique forms.  Nigliazzo's poems wander along the page, floating in white space as margins move in and out. In the three "Triptych" poems, pages 36, 46, and 61, Nigliazzo uses an article written in 2015, the report of a woman's murder, as a pale background. By choosing words to highlight, the poet creates spare poems that emerge as commentary on this crime--"Triptych III" offers only 6 highlighted words (pages 61-62). Nigliazzo has abandoned the more common narrative form--long or short lines that tell a story--and instead gives the reader hints, sign posts along the way. These poems are not meant to be read quickly. It is only by pondering them, allowing the imagination and intellect to fill in, so to speak, the white space around the words, that the impact and complexity of these stunning, impressionistic poems becomes evident. 


Nigliazzo creates word combinations that are luminous and tender, and that go beyond their literal meaning. Consider, for example, "Owling air" and "greenstick heart" ("Nocturne" page 6), or "the Malbec sky" ("Talisman" page 30). In another poem, "Cloudburst," a woman in a car accident strikes the windshield, and the scattering "silver glass" becomes "stars unpinned" (page 19). In "Say It," the moon is "a pail of warm milk" (page 35).  Reading, we might imagine this "milk" spilling over as moonlight.

As a practicing ER nurse, Nigliazzo becomes, in these poems, an especially astute witness,        using her condensed, lovely, and metaphoric language to let readers enter both the patient's experience and the caregiver's. Here is the entire poem, "Harvesting Her Heart," on page 29 (although not presented here with the poet's spacing of words and lines): "And when the surgeon pierced her breastbone-- / quickening /  light--  / scatter of fireflies." 

Such multi-layered metaphors also serve to enhance the sorrow and despair often experienced by patients or caregivers.  In "Because the eyelet," the narrator expresses an emotion perhaps often felt by nurses or physicians overwhelmed with the powerful scenarios they witness: "ripped clean, / I slipped off my dress, tore a seam / in my hip, / crept into the river, / unraveled-- / I have no edge" (page 13). 


Today there are many caregivers who write about their work with patients, and patients who write about their own medical experiences.  While we might label these "nurse-writers" or "physician-writers," etc., such titles can be limiting. Happily, many of our care-giving or care- receiving writers find an audience beyond the literature and medicine genre--their poems and prose also reach readers of "mainstream" literary journals and anthologies.  Stacy Nigliazzo is one of these writers, a young nurse whose work transcends labels and limits.  I'm sure we will continue to see important work from her far into the future.


Press 53, LLC

Place Published

Winston-Salem, NC



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