Poetry. Paper, Perfect Bound. 74 pages
2023, ISBN: 978-1-952781-15-5 $19.95 + S&H
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In Cati Porter’s fourth collection of poetry, small mammals, maternal love is extended to an assemblage of creatures big and small, with a focus on those most misunderstood of mammals, the human teenager. Everyday encounters become sublime: a conversation with a Rite Aid drugstore clerk, watching a documentary about ants with her son, a Sunday drive to look for wild burros. With equal parts curiosity and concern, small mammals takes an up close and personal look at the complexities of mothering teenage boys. It is the “What to Expect…” book you didn’t know you needed, bearing witness to what it means to be tender, vulnerable, and alive.
Praise for Cati Porter’s work:
In our hyper-real, post-truth world, many poems feel like copies. Reading them feels like watching a sunset on television. How striking and fresh it is – a small miracle, really – to now and then come across the genuine article. These poems by Cati Porter pay loving attention to things that matter: a baby possum’s hardscrabble life, a teenager’s midnight ambulance ride, gun laws, the tumult of adolescence, and the anxieties of parenthood. Not a line feels false, forced, half-baked, or overcooked. This book is “an ancient radio / tuned to another / dimension…a portal” that leads us out of the quotidian humdrum, into the realm of pure song. — Tom C. Hunley, What Feels Like Love: New and Selected Poems
In small mammals, Cati Porter explores the complexities of being a mother with sons who sometimes sit “in [the] gut…first a grain of sand, layering up”. These often wry, witty, and haunting snapshots of the small moments of love and anguish illustrate fully the ways the rebellion of teenagehood is a universal truth we should not hide. At the end of the book we learn of the death of one of these boys and this knowledge coupled with the lyrical mastery of voice is simply devastating. This book is a tour de force, one of utter truth and bravery. — Nikia Chaney, author of To Stir &
“Miracle enough was that I saw” reads the first line of small mammals, a line that speaks to the whole collection: it’s truly miracle enough that Cati Porter sees. It’s an even greater miracle that she documents what she sees through her poetry, and, in doing so, lets us see the world afresh. Her poems help us track the baffling passage of time, help us remember mothering is not for the fainthearted, help us praise dirty socks on the bathroom floor, help us see how eating from our favorite plate, with our favorite fork, can be a joyful act of empowerment. This collection thrums with pain and loss, with the acknowledgment that “Fruit rots. Wood decays. Rope frays. Bodies burn,” yet it also vibrates with love and hope, with the beautiful reminder that “The womb of the heart has room to spare.” A clear-eyed, keen-eared miracle of a book. — Gayle Brandeis, author of Many Restless Concerns
Cati Porter’s small mammals dives deep into the beauty, bafflement, and challenges of raising sons. Porter’s engaging poems astound with their tenderness, acute observation, and subtle humor. These are not “mommy poems,” as one male editor misogynistically said about women poets writing about their children—these are well-crafted and compelling poems that will twist your heartstrings and tie them in a knot. From “I read What to Expect When… /each stage a fresh new hell” to “Praise the gods that do not take them home / too soon,” these poems will pull you in whether you raised a son, are a son, or know a son. small mammals will sing to you in all the best ways. – Kelli Russell Agodon, author of Dialogues with Rising Tides
A subtly spectacular achievement, small mammals is a collection that gives voice to loss, love, memory, and affirms the ethical force of the maternal, as well as the poetic determination to make loss matter.
small mammals by Cati Porter reviewed by Stephanie Barbé Hammer at The Journal of Radical Wonder
The poems of small mammals are votives illuminating a life strongly intertwined with other lives.
small mammals by Cati Porter reviewed by Penelope Moffet at Your Impossible Voice
Miracle enough was that I saw
the young mole at all—exposed
as he was, trundling clumsily,
a furry chocolate sausage with legs
crossing an ocean of asphalt alone,
snout to the ground, pressing
forward at top speed, which is to say,
not very fast at all. In fact,
every few inches he stumbles, does
a barrel roll, rights himself. The road
is no place for a mole: intractable, impossible
to burrow. I stop in the middle.
At this pace he’ll fall prey
to a cornering car, stooping hawk
or loping cat. Tenderness traps me,
drawn to become his unlikely ally.
I redirect with my sneaker, stand guard
as a car rounds the bend. Up against
the insurmountable curb, wouldn’t it be
easy to leave him—let what may be, be—
but instead I bend, clasp the velvet
of his midsection, deposit him
beneath shrubbery where instinct
drives his little digger hands
to turn earth, tunnel under,
rump waggling until he vanishes,
not so unlike watching my own son
drive off alone for the first time, the distance
lengthening forever between us.
About Cati Porter
Cati Porter’s most recent poetry collections are Novel and The Body at a Loss. Poems from small mammals can be found in Rattle, VerseDaily, Terrain, Autumn Sky, Poetry Daily, and elsewhere. She is founder and editor of the long-running Poemeleon: A Journal of Poetry and is executive director of Inlandia Institute, a literary nonprofit and publisher. She lives with her family in Inland Southern California. Find her on the web at www.catiporter.com