Reading How to Disappear, I have the sense of someone tearing the past apart and rebuilding with naked raw hands. Claudia Reder is a story teller and this book is her lyrical gift to us, poems of growing up in the teeming city with the complex women who shaped her—immigrant grandmother and mother whose rich mix of languages turned the struggling young girl into a poet who survives to tell their stories. “The list of ghosts / who, no matter where I wander,/ who I marry, / who as mother, wife and sister, / haunt me still.” These full to bursting poems recreate large, unavoidable terrors and the seemingly small but necessary moments of joy that make art an act of love. They constantly go farther, go deeper with language that is wildly alive, informed by erudite and whimsical exuberance. How to Disappear is a splendid book, serious, poetically authentic, spiritually discerning. As I read it, I keep thinking, “This is why I love poetry.”
Whether she is likening her father to the surreal paintings of Miro or addressing the folk legends of the phantasmagoric Baba Yaga, Claudia M. Reder brings lyric power, verve, and an elegant ambiguity to the task. Her verbal canvas glows with sensuous details, insights and painterly images that spring from dreamscapes and constellations of magical elements. My Father and Miro in its gathering of family spells and mysteries is an outstanding collection that gives us a vision of the world while seeking reconciliation with its unsettled stories.
Colette Inez, Awards Judge
Claudia M. Reder's poem "Photograph" asks "how to translate these fragments into a whole story," and in her chapbook Uncertain Earth proceeds to do just that, with warmth, humor and nostalgia. She brings her mother to America through their visit to Ellis Island. They take off like Chagall figures in "To the Post on the Roof.» When she visits her mother in a nursing home, they age together. By turns rueful and compassionate, with a touch of magic realism, Reder gathers her mother's life, and pours the prickly love that is the legacy she leaves her daughter, into a series of poems filled with the meaningful objects of their lives lived together and apart, vivid colors, umbrellas and uncles, sisters and jewels, and always, stories.