Written by: Carla Rachel Sameth
Paperback | Pages: 86
Size: 8w x 8h
Publication Date: 01/23/2024
About The Book
Secondary Inspections, Carla Rachel Sameth's first full-length poetry collection, explores the life of the mother with loss and nuance as the book's central figure simultaneously deals with a son's addiction and a mother's dementia and death. These twin trials are approached in the context of a flawed and celebrated humanity that is authentic, rewarding, and difficult. The seasons of grief also look backward on the experience of recurrent miscarriages, shining a light on the vulnerability and potential for loss inherent from the moment motherhood is first contemplated. The exposure of coming undone is very real here, as the poems say, unmoored, unspooled, unpacked, but alongside it, Sameth never turns away from the continued sense of becoming. Located in Los Angeles and beyond, the culture of place and finding home along with themes of Jewish ancestry, identity, race, and queerness are also touchstones. Secondary Inspections invites us to take a second look at what we thought we knew and shows us how things are not always what they seem-identity can be questioned, provoke danger, and leave us impacted by how others see us; the bedrock of a family can be forever shifting and we too shift along with it. Through powerful narrative and vivid imagery, Sameth's poetry travels, searches, stumbles, and ultimately, returns. Even amidst heart-staggering moments, she reveals a rich cultural life that is both within, and that is further made possible by deeply being in the places you love with the people you love.
Praise for Secondary Inspections:
“Blossoming and decay are the twin forces in these powerful poems. Addiction, death, raising a child blessed with more than one story, and queerness are the threads woven throughout the book but they also vibrate with their own particular music. Sometimes a melody, sometimes a dirge. Carla Rachel Sameth’s deft control of the line and her gift for resonate details transforms experience into poetry. There’s another force in these poems: Love—a ‘perfume that competes /the gardenia’s bloom.’”
—Eduardo C. Corral, author of Guillotine
Reading Secondary Inspections you get the sense that you’re walking alongside the poet as she recounts her experiences aloud. A multi-faceted portrait of desire, motherhood, rebellion, substance misuse, and forgiveness spanning decades and eras of identity, these poems tell the story of a person unfolding into ever new understanding of past selves. There are no heroes, there
are no villains, there are only attempts at steadiness against the fast-moving backdrop of time. The poems are conversational and wide-ranging. Sameth is sly, self-deprecating, deadpan, and illuminated by an irrepressible wonder: a bird, a sunny day, chocolate from a friend, a child surviving against odds. Here is a woman who has lived, who has fiercely sought pleasure and pain and found them. A woman who continues to seek, and love, and wonder.
—Seema Reza, author of A Constellation of Half-Lives
"Praise the dark that covers us with ashes" writes Carla Rachel Sameth in the poem, "Love Letters to a Burning World." In this volume there is a search for solace and redemption during loss upon loss — a parent, the innocence of childhood, then addiction, complex relationships, political strife and the onslaught of the pandemic. Regret snakes throughout these poems, measuring which distances are safe and which are difficult to travel. "Poems, we feed my Mom poems" says the speaker in a dirge that chronicles the challenges of parenthood with the desire to honor these moments. The threat of coming "too close to the virus's spikey reach" is contrasted with a grandmother's "soft bosomy body billowing into mine" juxtaposing the desire for the nourishment of family, food, and music alongside long travails. "I am here," ends the last poem in another call to remember the "strong vigas, high ceilings, an unobstructed view" — meaning, present to both the wonder and the fragility of being alive.
—Elline Lipkin, author of The Errant Thread
Carla Sameth’s poetry collection is a thematic pendulum that sings in power and imagery where jacarandas become the bursting of purple fireworks. Courageous and bold, Sameth explores identity at the core of every poem. Do you kill a child by holding or letting go? Every day is survival in a pandemic; when your son is Black, you become a Black mother. She bores into the psyche of being othered; as a Jewish person, You are zoo animals watched by hatred. With a delicate balance of honesty, she is both villain and victim in love. Sameth’s poetry is a rare gift of unflinching truth as she gently guides us through guilt, death, hope, and redemption in Secondary Inspections. We are given permission to embrace all that is beautifully human and flawed.
-Romaine Washington, author of Purgatory Has an Address