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Before her death in December of 1993, Estelle Sirowitz ladled out the usual maternal advice--from wearing clean underwear (without holes), to believing in God, and keeping limbs inside windows of moving vehicles. The difference lay not in her delivery but in the recipient: her son Hal.
Nearly fourteen years ago Sirowitz began turning his mother's advice into poetry--never showing her exactly what came of her ranting and raving about a ketchup jar:
Don't stick your finger in the ketchup bottle,
Mother said. It might get stuck, &
then you'll have to wait for your father
to get home to pull it out. He
won't be happy to find a dirty fingernail
squirming in the ketchup that he's going to use
on his hamburger. He'll yank it out so hard
that for the rest of your life you won't
be able to wear a ring on that finger.
And if you ever get a girlfriend, &
you hold hands, she's bound to ask you
why one of your fingers is deformed,
& you'll be obligated to tell her how
you didn't listen to your mother, &
insisted on playing with the ketchup bottle,
& she'll get to thinking, he probably won't
listen to me either, & she'll push your hand away.
Since then Sirowitz has become a regular in New York City's downtown poetry scene, was awarded a residency at the MacDowell artists colony, performed live on MTV's "The Spoken Word: Unplugged," appeared on Public Television's "United States of Poetry" series, and received a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to continue writing about his mother. No one, not even Estelle Sirowitz, could have predicted the incredible allure and success of his dead-pan delivery and dead-on depictions of a mother's words of doom:
from A Bum's Life
You're going to be a bum, Mother said,
if you're not one already, but you'll
soon find out that even a bum
has to work hard convincing people
that he's really poor. When it rains
you can't stand out there holding
an umbrella, & ask for money, but
you have to get wet, because the more
you drip, the more sympathy you'll get....
Like nursery rhymes for adults, the poems included in Mother Said are addictive.
Read them once and you'll have to read them twice. Hear Sirowitz read them, and you'll find yourself reciting them to your friends--mimicking as best you can his Queens accent and his dry delivery. Who knows, you may even find yourself reciting them to your own mother.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
The loving harping of the Jewish mother provides the background for this collection of Hal Sirowitz poems. His late mother--for whom the old Jewish proverb "God could not be everywhere so he made mothers" may well have been created--had an opinion on almost everything and wasn't bashful in offering them to her son. Such motherly wisdom as "don't stick your finger in the ketchup bottle" and "don't swim in the ocean while it's raining" give the collection punch. Sirowitz also addresses his love life in a number of poems.From the Publisher:
"Hal Sirowitz's poems are indelible because they're incredibly funny, totally genuine, and because they're rooted in a complicated sympathy for the ambitions of the American family. This book will make you laugh out loud at the truth."
"Like the black box from a plane crash, the larynx of a mother is indestructible and immortal. Hal Sirowitz takes an unsparing look at Mommy's larynx in all its carping, oracular glory. It's sly, sad, and very funny."
"Hal Sirowitz's poetry is the logical step forward in the comic treatment of Oedipal angst. In the face of such formidable talent, Woody Allen's only choice is to suck the barrel of a .44 and blow his brains out."
"Hal Sirowitz blurts unspeakable truths. Horrifying, funny and nothing you want your mother to catch you reading. Bring home a copy today!"
"Sirowitz's poems might be the channeled voice of Philip Roth in a state of catatonic dementia."
--The Village Voice
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Book Description Crown Pub, 2002. Paperback. Condition: Used: Good. Seller Inventory # SONG0517888483