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The Sugar Zone Is Bittersweet
Date of Review: 
Published Work: 
Joan Gelfand
Huff Post Books

It is difficult to resist the temptation to compare, if not the style of poems, then simply the location of Mary Mackey's Sugar Zone to Elizabeth Bishop's series, Questions of Travel, written during her fifteen years in Brazil.

From Bishop's The Riverman:

They gave me a shell of cachaca/and decorated cigars./The smoke rose like mist/through the water, and our breaths/didn't make any bubbles./We drank cachaca and smoked/the green cheroots.

While Bishop may have smoked cachaca and drank potions, Mackey takes her Brazil sober. No cachaca, no ayuhaca, no substances in evidence whatsoever. Still, she is altered, moved to deeply felt observations:

From Walking Upside Down on the Other Side of the World

Quando falamos nesta cidade perdida/When we speak in this lost city/our words bubble out of our mouths/like the prayers of drowned children.

In both narratives we experience the elusive spirit of south of the Equator life; both poets are stunningly imagistic and musical and awake to topography, sociology, and the world beyond.

But there the comparison between the two accomplished authors ends.

Read the full review at Huffington Post Books.