LSU PRESS 2015
The Diener investigates loss and healing, change and permanence, in a hospital trauma center and in the eroding landscape of southern Louisiana. Loss is never just absence, and presence is not necessarily wholeness. Attending to the pastoral both as ecological advocacy and spiritual care, The Diener looks to the metaphysical world and the Gulf landscape as vehicles of change and stasis.
"What’s new in this collection are poems influenced by her experience as a trauma chaplain, the fraught intersections of the body, grief, and religious belief. The diener, a morgue assistant, acts our guide, a persona hovering in the literal realms between life and death. With vivid, chastened language, Serpas explores the difficulty of healing both landscape and the flesh." —Derrick Austin, Memorious Blog
The Dirty Side
of the Storm
W.W. NORTON & CO. 2007
In poems that bear witness to the eroding bayou country and its Cajun culture, Martha Serpas venerates a vanishing landscape defined by water—sensuous, fecund, and destructive. As marsh turns into gulf, identity and consciousness are transformed as well...Serpas's verses grapple with the paradox of grieving a lost home, advocating for change, and accepting the land's inevitable death.
"This book is remarkable.It presents a fully sensuous, tactile, weighty world. Line after line gleams with descriptive power and imaginative transformation of the seen. This is the bayou country, Louisiana, described lavishly, but also ironically.Add to the descriptive density and flash the witty intelligence of this writer. Add to that wit a Hopkins-like belief in the sacred visible in flashes and in wounds, an ecstatic and quicksilver vision, though in Serpas's case, heretical as well. Add to all that passion and intelligence and demand for justice, the overdrie of a powerful rhythmic sense. You have poetry of the highest order."
In his foreword, Harold Bloom describes Serpas as "in a highly original way, a Catholic
devotional poet from Louisiana [who has] perfected, this, her first book, across fifteen years,"
and finds that "a double handful of these [40 plus] poems may achieve permanence."
Serpas "is unflinching in looking into the contemporary quandaries facing her faith."
"...[A] book of love and death in a Louisiana landscape is as savory and abundant
as the rhythms she employs." —Molly Peacock
"This is how George Eliot, if she had written poems as compassionate as her fiction,
might have proceeded." —Richard Howard