Blood Transparencies: An Autobiography in Verse is a brutally honest narrative of coming-of-age in a unique American family. Told in a series of poetic vignettes it details life with a father who believes John Muir's words more essential than the Bible often leading his "tribe" on harsh quests into America's wildernesses. The tale is both humorous and heart breaking. Imagine Odysseus returned from WWII to teach his son the subtle art of bone breaking before sharing hot cocoa and opera. This is a family as at ease with nurturing abandoned wild animals as around a campfire rapt to ancestral stories of cannibalism. Throughout the book there is an occasional photographic relic or Neolithic scrawl to memorialize the breadth of this human story. There are echoes here too like the "transparencies" of the title of mythology and tall tales an oral tradition transcendent of the printed page. Blood Transparencies is a stunningly fresh glance back far back from whence we've all come.
Randy White a California writer and educator has won several writing awards including the Bazzanella Literary Award for poetry. His work has appeared in Sulfur From These Hills: Stories and Poems of The American West News From Native California and other magazines and anthologies. His book-length poem Motherlode / La Veta Madre written while still a teenager was influenced by ethnopoetic theory and described by historian Cornel Lengyel as "a multi-dimensional documentary &hellip one of the finest celebrations of California since 1776."
His simple lyrical style most notably in Blood Transparencies: An Autobiography in Verse masks strata of neo-tribalist philosophy mythology and ancestral storytelling. The writing is innovative and genre bending drawing comparisons with Derek Walcott and Anne Carson. "White is a story teller his poems enact a timeless ceremony of creation as they wrest images from a past and reassemble them in a master poet's imagination" notes the introduction.
"Blood Transparencies by Randy White is an eloquent and poignant look at a life drawing forth emotion and resonant memory from the reader. There were times I had to stop reading I was so overcome. 'Counted in Sheep Years ' for example was a lovely commentary on the nature of our relationship with one of our earliest domesticates encapsulating millennia before detailing one family's effort in raising sheep. Highly recommended. White is a masterful artist painting both beauty and loss with words. These poems will draw out your own memories bringing tears of joy tears of pain tears of remembrance for a history now past."
- San Francisco Book Review September 6 2016
"This collection of poems explores themes of childhood family and growing up often making ancient connections with the natural world.
"White (Motherlode/La Veta Madre 1977) whose work has appeared in several literary magazines uses the metaphor of a slideshow in the title poem to link the author's personal history with the outdoor landscape. In it family snapshots ethereally illuminated and projected on a bedsheet screen are as eternal as fossils the father's narration gives substance to the passing moments captured in the photos. The author links this powerful image to the flickering light that illuminates cave art and to Oklahoma red-dirt furrows &lsquofull of sunset.' Yet darkness waits in &lsquothe pause between slides'-a darkness that is like a lightbulb-battering moth &lsquodrawn to the brief incandescence / of our lives.' One could also see the slideshow as a metaphor for poetry which similarly captures moments through illumination and language-often with darkness in the pauses. This poetic autobiography relates a childhood in the Pacific Northwest where wild nature granted blessings but could be harsh-like the game-warden father in &lsquoWrestling Odysseus ' who teaches his son how to wrestle: &lsquoMy mother leaves the room my sisters begin to cry.... // There is no honor no prize of arms to win in this / no lesson here but fury.' Yet he's also the man who brings his son &lsquoa cup of &lsquoDon't-tell-your-mother coffee.'' Other poems explore children's egotism the importance of imagination stories and family and how innocence becomes experience. Some especially strong poems describe three seasons of service on a fire crew a coming-of-age process in which the speaker learns the job develops camaraderie dreams of women and begins to know his profession. White's fresh images resonate such as this description of aspen trees carved by generations of Basque shepherds: &lsquoThe body at burial should be like this scarred wound in song / our pitiful histories scratched on paper thin as light.' Family photographs tie in with the title poem's themes giving the book another layer of meaning.
"Well-crafted verses with strong images and good storytelling."
- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Choosing verse to write his autobiography Blood Transparencies as opposed to prose was both interesting and risky. When writing an autobiography in verse it can be difficult to grasp the concepts and life of this person. This was the case for me. I enjoyed reading individual poems by White such as "Wearing the Bear " "Dante's Children " and "I Dream of Jeanie". They formed a visual picture from the author's past to the mind's eye. This book is one that really needs to be read in one sitting so that readers can appreciate the story of his life. I found the times I was able to read for longer periods I enjoyed the book more. Despite having difficulty following this book as a true autobiography it is obvious that White is a gifted writer. Overall an intriguing way of writing an autobiography.
- Amy Synoracki Manhattan Book Review Sept. 8 2016