The Diener investigates loss and healing, change and permanence, in a hospital trauma center and the eroding landscape of southern Louisiana. The diener himself, the morgue attendant who assists the dead in the interstice between the living world and the world beyond, is the person with whom Martha Serpas most identifies in this collection. As a part-time hospital chaplain, Serpas possesses keen insight into the despair and resolve of patients and their families and friends.
Yet the themes in The Diener go well beyond grief and loss, as Serpas finds deeper meaning in faith, humanity, and the celebration of life. The diener is preeminent in a cast of characters—a sailor, a clerk, roustabouts, mothers, nurses, and chaplains—that represents the paradoxes of body and soul. Loss is never just absence, and presence is not necessarily wholeness. Attending to the pastoral both as ecological advocacy and spiritual care, The Diener looks to the metaphysical world and the Gulf landscape as vehicles of change and stasis.
MARTHA SERPAS has published two collections of poetry, Côte Blanche and The Dirty Side of the Storm. Active in efforts to restore Louisiana's wetlands, she co-produced Veins in the Gulf, a documentary about coastal erosion. She teaches at the University of Houston and serves as a hospital trauma chaplain.
Praise for The Diener
“Serpas is interested in the descents we face: into old age, illness, and death. . . . Most of her poems are about near death experiences, whether literal, imagined, or figurative, but all pack a punch.”—Houston Chronicle
“[Serpas’s] poems present a consciousness struggling to make meaning from the chaotic and overwhelming flux of day-to-day experience – both the mundane and the momentous. . . . Meaning, it seems, nudges from just beyond the straightforward syntax and structure of the poem.”—Fogged Clarity