Swish, Swirl & Sniff by Salvatore Marici
Salvatore Marici’s Swish, Swirl & Sniff (Ice Cube Press, 2014) is a lyrical road map, a journey from the ancient exotic to the homegrown fresh, in which the reader follows a seamless trail of poetry that feels both earthen and astral.
While this is a collection of poems, each with its own unique flavor and tone, there is a structured flow to its arrangement in what becomes a subtle story arc of Marici’s world. It begins with “Altitude Sickness,” dropping us right into a South American landscape:
The Andes squeeze Cuzco’s air.
Coca leaves fatten my red blood cells
Marici invokes a physical sensation that is both dreamlike and unsettling at times—the feeling of traversing an alien jungle. But even with harsh imagery such as “purple fruit on tangled green pads / … / and their guardian spines” and “Walls echo crashes / to a deafen gurgle” in the “Devil’s Throat” of the Iguazu River, there is still a hint of Marici’s lightheartedness and wonder. While the river’s turbulent cascades are painted as a celestial battle of warrior angels, the scene ends with the gentleness of a rainbow. Marici finds the aesthetic, and sometimes the joviality, of nature in its rawness and rage.
“Devil’s Throat” is linked to the subsequent poem through its title, “Cooking to Sympathy for the Devil,” a smooth segue into Marici’s love for food and cooking. We leave behind the Amazonian exotic for the domestic comfort of the kitchen, yet Marici retains the adventurous whimsy. Each poem in this section is a recipe in itself, as Marici describes each ingredient, texture and taste of what he is making, “Like a love potion / that comes out of a witch’s cauldron.” We also see the passion and intensity of the cooking, and how it is so deeply connected to his family, both past and present. Perhaps that is why this section of the collection was the most poignant for me—it was truly an exploration of his family and history, and how the food he loves is the bridge between his memories and his present-day life.
I appreciate the humor of Marici’s poetry as well. I have attended several poetry readings of the Georgia Poetry Circuit at my local university the past year, and there seems to be a need for the poets to tell us something profound, or to jar the audience with a dark exploration of the human psyche. But they often forget that comedy is a part of the psyche as well, and some of Marici’s poems such as “Cubs Suck” (I was raised outside of Chicago, Illinois, and I, too, rooted for the Sox) are nice little reprieves from some of the more somber and sensual pieces.
That is actually a perfect word to describe the collection as a whole—sensual—in terms of sexuality, artistic passion, and the five physical senses. The sexual tones are tenderly handled, more to convey a natural beauty or admiration for creative art:
of Samantha’s thighs
hug polished curves
sets the tone of the poem “Perfection,” which compares a cellist making music to romance. This is a recurring theme for Marici, as his poems about gardening, reading poetry or watching films have an air of sexuality to them—passion is passion, and the different types can often overlap.
The reuse of certain images throughout the collection also forms the story arc, as if these images are “characters” that symbolize an emotional entity of Marici. The moon, the locust tree in his yard, the “two-story cedar deck” (a place where he likes to observe the surrounding nature while partaking in his consumable comforts) become prominent in the last section of the collection, hinting that these things carry significant importance to the poet. When it came to the final poem “Saving a Buck,” in which the locust tree gets dismembered by a landscaper (this moment was foreshadowed in an earlier poem, when Marici watches a neighbor cut down one of his dying trees) I genuinely felt bad for the tree. For a tree. Because we see how much this tree meant to the poet, the beauty it had and how easily it was axed away. It is a sorrowful moment to end on, but it is also carries hope in what new life can grow from it, the insects, fungi, and “unstable sprouts [that] sit on top.”
I confess that I don’t always derive the full meaning or author’s intentions from poetry, but Salvatore Marici’s Swish, Swirl & Sniff is accessible to even the most poetry-adverse of readers, creating incredible canvases of verbal wordplay, colors, and scents.
Salvatore Marici is an author of two poetry books. The first was a chapbook titled Mortals, Nature, and their Spirits (Ice Cube Press, 2012). His writing has appeared in several anthologies, magazines and journals including Toasted Cheese. He was the 2010 Midwest Writing Center’s poet-in-residence. He has won and placed in several poetry contests. Marici served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and he is a civil servant retiree, who worked for the Army, mainly with the job title Agronomist. At both jobs, he managed natural resources. You can follow his poetry events at salmarici.myicourse.com and on Facebook.
A.R. Cook resides in Gainesville, Georgia, and is the author of The Scholar and the Sphinx fantasy book series. She has short stories published in the anthology The Kress Project from the Georgia Museum of Art, and the fairy-tale collection Willow Weep No More. Several of A.R.’s short stories and short plays have been awarded first place and appear in various journals, such as Toasted Cheese and Writer’s Digest. A.R. was the former book review columnist for the Gainesville Times. Email: scholarandsphinx[at]gmail.com