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Yaya's Cloth
Andrea Potos

ISBN: 978-0-916078-65-2 Hardcover $24.00

ISBN: 978-0-916078-66-9 Paperback $14.00


Like a Mona Lisa smile, the lives of preceding generations are only partially revealed to us, tantalizing in their slim facts and shadowy contours. In Yaya’s Cloth, Andrea Potos searches and deepens the narrative of her Greek heritage as embodied by her beloved grandparents, Yaya and Papouli. Fleshing out fragments of family chronicles, Potos unfolds classic elements of drama— sacrifice, tragedy, endurance, renewal, all rendered somewhat exotic by the interplay of Greek culture. The story is the richer for being sifted through the heightened impressions of Potos’ girlhood, when Greek names for favorite foods and unknown faces in family photographs enticed her to delve deeper and deeper into a world she could only half know, even as it wholly engaged her. Yaya in particular anchors these poems, emerging as a compelling figure of almost archetypal stature. “I speak it—grand mother—as if recalling an empress or Demeter herself.” “She glows like a pilot light beneath the days.”



As a child of immigrants, I find Andrea Potos's collection Yaya's Cloth especially touching. Potos — a winner of the NAR's James Hearst Poetry Prize — explores the haunting contradictions and parallels between "the old country" and the new: the American girl, an eighth grader, who dreads the nickname "Little Miss Mustache," the inherited "shadowy stretch haunting my upper lip" that the girl shaves and depilates till she is "red / and raw" ...and her grandmother, her Yaya as a young mother and wife, hiding her hair ("woman's glory") in a kerchief by day, "until moon time [when] I unknot this tie, / let my dark wings loose to the night." This matriarchal thread — called in some
families "the tie that binds" — here becomes the freeing tether that births the work: poems on Sylvia Plath, Demeter and Persephone, Penelope, pregnancy, childbirth. Potos emblazons this tether as yarn: material skeins crocheted into lace as well as narrative threads the yayas weave into tales of the old country — "our underworld story / against a backdrop of ivory linen." Get this book.

—Vince Gotera in North American Review


These poems are hymns to pleasure and simplicity, flesh and blood. Yaya’s Cloth has reminded me of how celebratory and warm and graceful poetry can be, and, especially, of how both light and loss can co-exist in our hollow and hallowed places.

—Dean Bakopoulos,
Please Don't Come Back from the Moon


Behind the keenly detailed portrait of Andrea Potos’ grandmother (her Yaya) is a whitewashed house in Kalamata, olive center in Greece, the citrus air, the silkworms in the cupboard to be fed mulberry leaves so that another portrait of place, beauty, event, and loss may be woven into the precious Greek fabric. This book of two continents, a history of memory, is a subtle weave of nostalgia and wisdom.

—Willis Barnstone,
Sweetbitter Love: Poems of Sappho and Life Watch


“The secret title of all good poems could be ‘Tenderness,’” Galway Kinnell once wrote. Andrea Potos has given us an entire book whose title could, indeed, be Tenderness. Yaya’s Cloth is a shawl of people and places and events you will want to wrap yourself in, a world both sensuous and sensual, recreated in poems as deeply felt as they are skillfully crafted.

—Cathy Smith Bowers,
Traveling in Time of Danger and A Book of Minutes



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