Winner of the 2014 Helen Kay Chapbook Poetry Prize
At the Booth Memorial Home for Unwed Mothers 1966 by Patti Sullivan
There was a place for girls like me…That place was the Booth Memorial Home for unwed mothers.
From her opening in Post Summer Blues –This was in the mid-sixties/girls didn’t keep their out of wedlock babies/my crime was being stupid and trusting, to her stunning afterward–In those first days/weeks months years/ after she found me/I couldn’t stop saying /Daughter—Patti Sullivan’s work is simply unforgettable. Her poems collectively constitute a portrait of a culture: mid-twentieth century, still-Puritanical, Southern California. Match-strike moments, achingly painful, sometimes darkly humorous, plunge us into a young woman’s cultural transgression and punishment. In Booth Memorial, Sullivan transcends era and location, to illuminate a timeless and placeless dilemma: how to say yes to life and dignity in the face of exile and unbearable loss. Long after turning the last page, we are left grateful and larger in spirit. —Maía, author of The SpiritLife of Birds, Adder’s Tongue Press
Patti Sullivan is our guide into the lives of dispossessed girls behind closed doors at the Booth Memorial Home; through her words their elemental loss finds its way into language, both sorrowing and redemptive. Her voice is clear, courageous, and achingly honest—these are poems that open the heart. —Marsha de la O, author of Antidote for Night, BOA Editions
Patti Sullivan’s poems are arrows, swift and quiet, hitting their mark, sinking deep. Powerful and necessary, these poems make me say when reading, “This is what poetry is for!” In Patti’s passionate, honest voice, I hear generations of silent women who nod their heads, murmur agreement, urge her forward. Why didn’t we ever talk about the truth, she questions the silence imposed upon her as a young unwed mother, would we die or catch fire. —Mary Kay Rummel, Poet Laureate of Ventura County, CA, author of The Lifeline Trembles.
Read selections from At the Booth Memorial Home For Unwed Mothers 1966: Post Summer Blues 12 The Stories They Tell 13 Along Comes Mary 15 Home Away from Home at 17 17 Visiting Hours 18 The Most Beautiful Dress in the World 20 Going Over 21 Limbo 23 Forget About It—Why Can’t You 25 Notes on the Booth Memorial Home 26 from Evening Street Review, NUMBER 12, Spring 2015