Poetry by Karen Carissimo
Praise for Dream City
An unfamiliar paradise awaits the reader in Carissimo’s Dream City, an intimate look at Hawaii’s history of leper colonies, prisoners, witch doctors, and ghosts of forgotten homelands. In a landscape of sugar cane, molding pineapple and monkeypod, the writer evokes the steam of a Japanese bath and the scent of sandalwood with equal ease as she explores not only the history of a place but her own history.
In Dream City, Karen Carissimo’s poems ache to save, rescue, redeem. We witness “Saint Anthony weeping, saint of lost / souls, saint of lost things.” Ancestors, languages, the lush paradises of dreams—all lost, being lost. And we must preserve their beauty, “save their stories of embellished lives / let them rest without our burden of regret.” Carissimo’s poems—lyrical, radiant, even mystical—reclaim and safekeep our past, delivering to us ourselves, our selves.
Karen Carissimo has written an elegant, finely cadenced book of lyric and narrative poems in Dream City. Full of beautifully wrought images from the natural world of Hawai`i and California, her lines constantly verge and then spill into eloquent insights that revitalize the imagination and give insinuated flutters of hope borne from the ephemeral froth that spumes forth on a wave of beauty. Out of familial grief and anxiety for the fate of others, she enters into the psychological landscapes of mythological questing and makes of her journeys new myths and tales that talk to the dead and restore us, the living remnants, to our waking dreams. Out of intelligence and passion without a hint of cynicism or disaffection with literary language, in the midst of a pure lyric conviction, she memorializes lost worlds—the dream city of the Sixties that developers promised her Portuguese ancestors on Maui—imbued with their forgotten nobility, full of a long and loving vision rendering the obscure and exotic details of those lives with a cold eye and yet a warm heart. Karen Carissimo is no less than my literary sister, beloved of our islands, and has done us proud.