The Amoeba Game
About The Amoeba Game (Eyewear Publishing)
On a journey that begins in South Florida and ends up in Romania, the country of her family’s forgotten history, Tara Skurtu plays “the amoeba game,” a game that has no rules. With subtle and serious humor, with the vivid spontaneity of memory and dreams, and with surgical precision, these compelling, mysterious poems hold up a lens that reveals the slippery and changing dimensions of our many selves.
The earned, liberated laughter of survival and foreboding; a high-voltage mind thinking in images; candid grief; an irreverence that rises above convention to a true, untamed intuition of the sacred; love, with all its penalties and joys. With these qualities, the engaging poems of Tara Skurtu’s The Amoeba Game offer a vision of our familiar world transformed by possibility. The title poem is a compact, funny parable of imagination engaging the unknown, and happy to encounter the unknowable.
“There’s a town in Romania/where almost everyone is a Skurtu…,” the poet Tara Skurtu hears from her father when she’s a girl in Florida thinking about aisles of zippers at Jo-Ann Fabric. Skurtu journeys into adulthood from there, her childhood state of Bible School and barracudas and a loving family’s disarray, to the dream and reality of life—and love—in Romania. In these wise, sharply observed, dazzling lyric poems, we travel, too, as she opens to—and is opened by—her ancestral adopted country.
In The Amoeba Game, Tara Skurtu demonstrates broad, empathetic range, moving between remembering a childhood game while frying an egg to visiting her sister in jail, prayer, Ellis Island, a pink dildo defacing a statue of the Virgin Mary, boogers on a White House wall, a “cross-eyed skull” tattoo, vacation Bible school, and “your neighbor Marlene,/ her neon lips, twenty-something/feral cats, her Buick, its red and white/bumper sticker: Shit happens.” All are made real, present, with admirable, clear-eyed precision. Whether she’s talking about “[t]he fear of forgetting I am well” or wanting you so much she “walked into your morning shower fully clothed,” Tara Skurtu shows you what she means, and that she means it.
The Boston Globe (January 7, 2018), Nina MacLaughlin:
"Boston poet Tara Skurtu has been living in Romania on an extended Fulbright fellowship, teaching creative writing in Bucharest, and she’s just released her first full-length collection of poems, which brings her back home this week for readings. “The Amoeba Game’’ (Eyewear) deposits us on the southern tip of Florida, in prison visiting rooms, on Romanian side streets and markets; we come to know a father who invents shapes and cracks wise to cops, a troubled sister, poet pals, and loves. Her imagery, of the simple and familiar, sears itself on the mind: a fly is caught in a trap, “its body puttied/ to the glue strip, legs waving/ like six wet strokes of black ink.” Skurtu’s poems — wise, wry, probing — grapple with God and language, with the strange futures that unfold for us all."
Mass Poetry, Getting to know Tara Skurtu and Her Book The Amoeba Game
Tara Skurtu and The Amoeba Game at London Review Bookshop (photo: Anca Fronescu)