top of page







  Poems by Paola Corso 

Photographs by George Thomas Mendel 
(Bottom Dog Press, 2004)

"Paola Corso's poems are tough, edgy, often unsettling—populated with tender sinners and tough-as-nails saints. She blends the political with the mythic, family life with social annotations, to create an urgent and compelling collection.  She is a poet we root for!"                             

—DENISE DUHAMEL, author of Queen for a Day:  Selected and New Poems 

"Few books address the anxiety of moving between classes and the assimilation of second-generation immigrants with such urgency and poetic capability Paola Corso's first collection of poems Death by Renaissance.”

—THE INDIANA REVIEW              

"Poems drawn out like monologues from an Italian John Wideman, Corso's work captures  the voice     and rhythms of her remembered world."


"Varied in sound, form, and voice, Corso’s poems are united by a vivid immediacy of people and place   and an elegiac core. Through the rhythms of machinery, speech, memory, and human interaction, she makes us realize the vitality we lose when a community dies."                 

—WALTER CUMMINS, Literary Review Editor Emeritus

"Personal poems that make the sounds of an entire community."


"...Paola Corso’s Pittsburgh through-and-through. The Italian immigrants there finds in her poetry a mythological home more bleak than most, but suffused with humor.”


"Refusing to be too easily understood, these poems demand and amply repay repeated reading."         

—MICHAEL PALMA, author of A Fortune in Gold, Inferno: A New Verse Translation

"Like Corso's poems, George Thomas Mendel's documentary photos of the Pittsburgh area today revel      in shaking up and restoring the reader to meanings and location and shift the nature of the book from poetry collection to scrapbook to historical document." 






The river from a distance is not the same

        as the river up close.    In this dream


I find myself walking toward the bank

soupy with algae and slime but I dive

        straight over, my projectile suspended

in the mist until I reach a clear swirl of water,

        my arms an arrow spearing crystal that cracks

into a thousand pieces, each one a reflection

of me for when I don’t want to see anything

        but my own vision of what is to be.



The river up close is not the same

        as the river from a distance.    In this life


I find myself walking away from the bank,

clumps of leaves caught between my toes,

        the smell of fish and worm baiting my skin,

wetness hardening, settling into my joints

        so that every move dries stiff and brittle

enough to snap off a finger or toe, a limb

if I’m not careful as I crawl up the rocky bank

        that scrapes away edges of my life, pieces of dirt

rolling back into the river, into stillness earthed.

A current saved up, the pause of so many days

        waiting with abandon.



My father drove 382 miles from Pittsburgh to Brooklyn and didn’t find a parking space. His welcoming was a $60 ticket and sticky sap all over his windshield from the sycamores on our tree-lined street. We moved the car to a legal spot then took a taxi to Home Depot to buy light fixtures and to Home Depot again for a toilet seat because I couldn’t leave a nursing baby for longer than a few hours at a time. After my father hung the ceiling light, he picked up operations instructions for a Purely Yours breast pump. I sat at the kitchen table with my nursing bra flaps down, exposing breasts hard and engorged while he rigged tubing to the machine, set the dial, and handed me the suction cup. When my milk began to sputter into the bottle, he winked and left me with a pitcher of water to drink as I expressed one breast at a time in calibrated dribs and drabs. The room grew dark, but he came back to switch on the ceiling fixture he had just installed. And in his light, my eyes gradually began to adjust to the bold pattern of the newly hung wallpaper, to the full bottle of milk in front of me, waiting to see my cream rise to the top in the freezer before the faint tint of blue.

Read a Book Review.


Click here to order.

Copyright © 2020 Paola Corso. All Rights Reserved.

Cover Photo-Death (2).jpg
Web-Giovanna (2).jpg
bottom of page