In this, her first book, Martha Serpas succeeds brilliantly in fulfilling the calculations of the alchemists, those great hermetic artists of medieval Europe. Côte Blanche deliberately and beautifully weds the secular to the divine in poems which, steeped in the Cajun landscape of Serpas’s Louisiana, prickle with exhilarating sensuality. Through its votive offerings to a God who is all too aware of the longings and aspirations of humankind,Côte Blanche becomes a testament to a new, personal belief that is simple yet breathtaking in its reach.
“Martha Serpas is, in a highly individual way, a Catholic devotional poet from Louisiana, and she has perfected this, her first book, across fifteen years. Many rereadings persuade me that a double handful of these poems may achieve permanence. Like Elizabeth Bishop, her strong precursor, Martha Serpas practices a severely chastened art of poetry . . . I am moved to prophesy a considerable poetic development for her.”
—from the Foreword by Harold Bloom
“Lucid, yet luscious; rich, yet modest; full of spiritual insight, yet empty of bossy certainty, Serpas’s book of love and death in a Louisiana landscape is as savory and abundant as the rhythms she employs.”
“Though she possesses—preeminently—some of the virtues with reason imputed to the engaging poet: accuracy of vision, for instance, and solicitude of address (her raptures are focused), Martha Serpas has a quality rare among such poets as engage us, and that is sustenance, a nurturing attention to her landscape, her weather, her personnel, off which one never feels she might be scoring for the poem’s sake, but rather to which she pays heed in order to sustain, to develop the Thing Itself even before she aggrandizes her sentiments, her judgments. This is how George Eliot, if she had written poems as compassionate as her fiction, might have proceeded, and it is certainly with such gifts that Serpas prevails.”
“Martha Serpas’ gift for narrative propels these poems of bucolic Louisiana. This incredible book evokes not only the author’s weighty but uncertain wisdom, it captures the world in which this wisdom lives.”
“The fusion of Serpas’ subtle yet complex poetic and theological sensibility and dialectic with bayou particulars and argot is why these poems—emotionally, intellectually, and anagogically—are so compelling and successful.”
—Adam Vines, Birmingham Poetry Review
“Miracles happen at the water’s edge – baptism, discipleship, a thirst for adventure, re-connection with ancient symbols of regeneration. In her collection titled Côte Blanche, poet Martha Serpas . . . invites us to become immersed in landscapes along Louisiana’s low bayou country where ‘Côte Blanche’ is the name given by French cajun settlers to the ‘White Coast’ salt islands and inlets that encroach upon towns like St. Charles Crossing, Grand Caillou, and Port Fourchon. With the sure skill of a child grown up by the sea, Serpas navigates back to this briny world of characters she casts as pilgrims of a ‘roustabout God.’ She is a word artist drawing the reader into vivid descriptions of tough working men, of wives who count rosaries ‘before a dark space in the wall’ and a chorus of familiar voices, living and dead, that speak their experience of ‘time we saved, forgot, then lost.'”
—Carole Timin, The Democrat
Martha Serpas is a native of Galliano, Louisiana, and a graduate of Louisiana State University, New York University, Yale Divinity School, and the University of Houston. Her poems are included in Uncommonplace: An Anthology of Louisiana Poets(LSU Press). A frequent lecturer on poetry and belief, she teaches at the University of Tampa.