Invitation by Marjorie Evasco: A Review

(I attempt to make an analysis of Marjorie Evasco’s poem “Invitation,” from her poetry collection Skin of Water)


by Marjorie Evasco


Sweet hook
That has snagged me
From the deep,
Make of my life
A feast on the Sultan’s table.


You have cut me open.
But I shall not speak of flesh,
Nor of blood, where thirst
Thrives in the salt marshes.
Let me offer you only
That bluer ocean,
Where waves surge higher.


Pick my bones clean.


When I first got my copy of Skin of Water from ma’am Marjorie Evasco on the poetry reading night of the 2011 Iyas Creative Writing Workshop, I began reading it immediately, and the poem in the collection that first caught my attention was this poem. As in all first readings, I barely digested it, brushing merely on its surface. I was also still stuck at the happy thought of having gotten the signed copy of the book for free!

The poem would return to my attention again a few months later, when sir Dominique Cimafranca used it to demonstrate lyricism in poetry during our Creative Writing class. Ever since then, I have been contemplating on the piece, and I can say I have explored it enough to write some form of formal review.

In a review of the book, Myrna Peña Reyes describes the general tendency of the poetry in Skin of Water to let the metaphorical “insinuate itself early on in the poem,” and how “the blending of the material and metaphorical realities doesn’t appear self-conscious but is natural, is always seamless, unforced.” I am of the opinion that this could not be any truer than in “Invitation,” where the poet’s lyricism is seamlessly tucked in  but delightfully comes out from a well wrought metaphor.

The poem comes in the form of an address, and  with the suggestive images of “snagging from the deep,” “making into a feast” and “cutting open,” the reader’s imagination is “invited” to see the persona as a fish. The poem, however is centrifugal in its lyricism, and the persona obviously wishes to tell more than just the story of a fish. Perhaps, this is most evident in how the addressee takes on several metaphors: a “sweet hook,” a chef, even someone who eats fish.

In the first stanza, the persona describes the addressee as a “hook,” who has “snagged her from the deep,” and who has most certainly taken her out of the stasis of normal life and brought about change, pleasant change we get from the description of the hook as “sweet.” And the persona wants further change, as she enjoins the addressee to “make of her life a feast on the Sultan’s table,” feasts being of a beneficial, nourishing character, while the word “sultan” evokes images of grandeur and higher power: the persona thus wishes to be made into something of use for a higher end. In this stanza, the persona expresses the noble possibilities the addressee opens up for her.

In the second stanza, nakedness is hinted in “cutting open,” a hint strengthened by the word “flesh” that appears in the succeeding line: the addressee has seen the persona naked, but she wishes not to speak of carnal matters. The carnality the persona is avoiding is further developed on the experiential level by the mention of “thirst,”a word which to some extent has a negative connotation. This negativity is modified by the words “blood” and “salt,” the latter of which, as it appears as “salt marshes,” becomes the volta to the stanza’s crescendo. In contrast to this saltiness of (shallow) marshes, the persona offers instead “that bluer ocean, where the waves surge higher” and here the poem becomes most lyrical: leaking behind the mention of the ocean is a promise of more noble things, emphasized by the use of the comparatively superior tone of “bluer,” and of the objective correlative of “waves surging higher.” In this stanza, it is the persona’s turn to offer noble possibilities.

The poem ends in climactic fashion with two lines. In the first is the communicative expression of the poem’s title. In the second, the fish invites the addressee to “pick her bones clean,” lyrically to take all of her, concluding with that lyricism leaking from the metaphor that dominates the poem.

And to some extent, we can be whimsical and see the poem reflecting its own message. It is as if, like the fish wishing to be treated  more than just flesh and be used for higher ends, the poem itself calls on the reader to see it as more than just the monologue of a fish, and understand the call for nobler love behind it.

Truly a demonstration of how poetry must be experienced, ma’am Marj Evasco has created “a feast on the Sultan’s table” with this poem!



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