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Antidote for Night
by Marsha de la O
88 pages ~ 38 poems
ISBN-10: 1938160819
ISBN-13: 978-1938160813
Price: $16.00
Publisher: BOA Editions, Limited, 2015
Purchase at:


Set in present-day Southern California, Antidote for Night is a heartbreak lyric, a corrido,
a love song to California's city lights and far-flung outskirts‐the San Diego backcountry,
the Central Valley, the Inland Empire, and the Mojave Desert. Marsha de la O's voice is a
kind of free jazz, musically rich with LA noir and the vastness of metropolitan Southern
California. Winner of 2015 Isabella Gardner Poetry Award.


"Splendidly incisive, de la O doesn't so much observe landscapes as create them, just
as her father 'conjured this city, / my labyrinth, our treasure' while navigating the
'red snake / traffic.' More significant is how she creates emotional landscape, suffusing
her lines with both sorrow [and] longing. Strong portraits range from a honeybee to a
sad-eyed former student who ends tragically, and the well-displayed natural world is
folded into the human … A terrific discovery that many readers will find both illumin-
ating and accessible."
‐Library Journal

"The poetry of Marsha de la O continually alternates between two frequencies‐the quotidian
and the strange. And, like Transtromer or Bishop, she is a fearless investigator of those
liminal states where everyday reality turns to terror‐or to transcendence. It takes a crafts-
person of extraordinary gifts to undertake such sojourns, yet Marsha de la O has all the
skills and all the character to complete the tasks she has set for herself. Her poems are
bracing, frightening, and‐I would go as far as to say‐prophetic. Antidote for Night is,
quite simply, a remarkable accomplishment."
‐David Wojahn, World Tree (2011)

"I've loved the poems of Marsha de la O for many years, yet her newest collection, Antidote
for Night
, arrives like a revelation. These psalms of California past and present reflect a
profound wisdom, one earned quietly and slowly, in the midst of the somber tides of those
lives she celebrates. Don't miss these powerful and visceral meditations for the dark."
‐David St. John, The Face: A Novella in Verse (2004)

"For the power, mystery, intelligence, and ravishing beauty of her language, Marsha de la O
has long been one of my favorite poets of the region. And with Antidote for Night, she is
fully deserving of a national reputation and a readership as wide and broad as poets might
be allowed in our particular age."
‐Suzanne Lummis, Open 24 Hours (2014)

"If I didn't know Marsha de la O was a former schoolteacher, I'd swear she was equal parts deep
sea diver, alchemist, and sage. In her newest book, Antidote for Night, she dives fearlessly into
the darkest waters and brings back the extraordinary, both delightful and painful, where we enounter
'unhinged saints' and 'trumpet players,' 'ragpickers' and 'neighbor girls' in a territory as familiar
as de la O's beloved Southern California, and as unexplored as 'a river tumbling like raw silk through
a gorge' or the 'slippery pottage of my heart.' A pregnant possum, the unforgettable ride down a highway,
another woman vacuuming‐take on dimensions you couldn't imagine before but know so true. Trust de la O's
voice, as she welcomes the darkness that breathes and riffs through this luminous life."
‐Amy Uyematsu, The Yellow Door (2015)

"Antidote for Night by Marsha de la O is a gem. This award-winning poetry book is written by a poet who is
completely tuned into her world, never missing a nuance, observation or opportunity to invite the reader to
join her in transcendence. These contemplative poems are a balance of the darkness and the light that we all
face; always embracing the importance of family, birth, death, health, beauty and the natural world …This
is one of those rare poetry books that needs to be read slowly and listened to carefully. The messages here
are profound and strong, akin to the psalms. They have wisdom and a musical quality that inspires us to read
them over and over again."
‐Dr. Diana Raab, American author, poet, lecturer, educator and inspirational speaker


Marsha de la O holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Vermont College. Her latest book,
Antidote for Night, won the 2015 Isabella Gardner Award and was published by BOA Editions.
Her first book, Black Hope, was awarded the New Issues Press Poetry Prize and an Editor's
Choice Small Press Book Award. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in
Apercus Quarterly, Bosque, and the New Yorker. She lives in Ventura, California, with her
husband, poet and editor Phil Taggart. Together, they produce poetry readings and events in
Ventura County and are also the editors and publishers of the literary journal Askew.


by Marsha de la O

And if I made a bad meal, if leftovers,
my husband bent to scrape them into the bowl,
summoning our hound for the favor
of her indiscriminate desire,
his brows scowling together, yes, I'd open the door
into the garage just to let the rancor out, the dog
stood in for me, her mad panicked barking.
I was pregnant, thick with it, thought to
become a woman finally, not that stick,
that boy I'd always been‐instead,
a heavy figure forever wrong at dinner.
He didn't want to be a father.
And yes, I witnessed the improbable nest
a stranger's long labor, boogie board gnawed
to snowdrops lining the far corner.
We came face to face‐rich silver of her ruff,
pink tail sprouting wiry hairs like a woman's bristled chin,
a quick palsy ran through her shoulders‐discovered
the possum must have known then‐I was her ruin.
She met my gaze, lifting her plush and fragile nose.
Against my belly wall three rivers fed the blue placenta,
little matter moored by cable coiled in that water.
She stood her ground, lips drawn back,
teeth bared. Don't tell me what love endures
or need requires, don't tell me animals can't make
mortal calculation. I knew she was carrying too,
building bits of flesh that fall into the world,
thirteen teats for a litter of two dozen
infants the size of honey bees scrabbling for the pouch,
and if half of what we sow is strewn on barren ground‐
scorched, choked, devoured by birds‐still,
all must be borne


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