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Poet Leatha Kendrick is the author of two chapbooks, Science in Your Own Back Yard (see annotation) and Heart Cake. In this full-length collection she continues to examine themes explored in her first titles: love and loss; the fleeting of time; and her personal experience of breast cancer. Second Opinion is divided into three sections: the first two sections have 14 poems each, the final section has 13, perhaps to indicate that for this passionate and articulate poet the the final poem is yet to be written. The first poem in the collection, "A lesson in Love Unleashed," sets the theme for the poems that follow: "yes, I think, even in their distorted flesh, / I still desire what's gone. What I'm leaving" (p. 3). In the first and third sections, the poet writes of marital and familial trials and triumphs, both past and present, and in the second section--for me the most vivid in the collection--she writes about breast cancer and how this experience weaves in and out of her other loves and losses. This weaving is given both visual and emotional expression in the poem "Tonight Weaving" (p. 28)
Throughout the book, Kendrick's poems take varying forms and tones, and yet there is always the assurance of a constant voice--personal, passionate and often humorous. In the second section, the poems become more visually complex and fractured, poetic representation of the "distortion" of the flesh as the narrator considers the diagnosis and treatment of her breast cancer. In this section's opening poem, "The Calculus of a Cracked Cup," the poet writes, "Our position is never certain, only our / velocity" (p. 27), adding the concern of the swift passing of time to the collection's overall theme. In "Second Opinion," the title poem, she notes, "I want to believe in sudden remission, / in some way to avert what we are certainly / headed for" (p. 34). But while time rushes on, the reality of cancer, the loss of a breast becomes a "stopped surface" under which a "lost life" wants "its old course, not subject to IVs or a knife" (p. 35).
It is life--difficult and sweet--that is ultimately celebrated in these poems and that overcomes the losses. The most wry poems are found in the breast cancer section: "Christmas, Adolescence, Yin and Yang" (p. 32) is a sort of ode to "Skeeter and Bite," so named by a first love; now "they'll lift / one out, the eye sewn shut by mastectomy." "Costume. Fakery. The Sell." is a tough, nervy poem that has the narrator claiming acceptance for who she is, post surgery: "Alive! Tender, I'm not hiding" (p. 39). Throughout the book there is a subtle triple play on the word "tender": woman as caregiver; woman as collateral in a society that values cleavage; and woman as injured, post op, and physically vulnerable.
In the collection's final poem, "What You Leave Me," the theme of love and loss balanced against time comes to some resolution as the narrator and her partner join in a "sweet tangle": "the blossoming / hide, this bounded / time against brevity" (p. 64).
Summary:This book consists of a series of "found poems" abstracted from transcripts of interviews that Loreen Herwaldt conducted with 24 writers who had previously published accounts of their illnesses. Dr. Herwaldt, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Iowa, began her investigation into the personal experience of illness after having read Mary Swander's Out of this World: A Journey of Healing and Reynolds Price's A Whole New Life, both of which revealed a negative dimension of medical care. These books initiated an "unexpected turn" (p. 1) in Dr. Herwaldt's life, culminating in a sabbatical year during which she interviewed a wide array of writers, intending to investigate the texture and dynamics of their experience of medical care by textual analysis of interview transcripts.
Summary:In his Introduction, editor Thom Schramm puts the themes of this anthology into perspective. He notes that the moods associated with bipolar disorder are familiar to everyone. Moreover, the notion that artistic creativity is associated with psychological instability is widespread; in fact, it is almost a stereotype, ranging in time from Plato's depiction of poets as suffering from "divine madness" to contemporary examples, like Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Robert Lowell. However, it should be evident that, since we all experience periods of sadness and elation, it is no wonder that poets of all stripes, no matter how "stable" they might be, may evince these moods in their work.
This collection includes selected poems from each of Bruce Weigl's seven books, beginning with Executioner (1976) and continuing through Sweet Lorain (1996), as well as a group of new poems. In the early poem "Anna Grasa," the poet writes, "I came home from Vietnam. / My father had a sign / made at the foundry: / WELCOME HOME BRUCE." But Weigl had brought Vietnam home with him. The trauma and suffering of his war experience informs his sensibility and serves as subject matter for a large number of his poems.
In "Amnesia"(1985), he comments, "If there was a world more disturbing than this? / You don't remember it." And the rumination continues in "Meditation at Hue"(1996), "Some nights I still fear the dark among trees / through last few ambush hours before morning." And Weigl concludes "And we Came Home," one of the new poems in this volume, with, "No one / understands how we felt. / Kill it all. Kill it all."
Some of the other powerful war poems in Archeology of the Circle are "Dogs," "Girl at the Chu Lai Laundry," "Burning Shit at An Khe," "The Last Lie," "Song of Napalm," "Sitting with the Buddhist Monks, Hue, 1967," and "Three Meditations at Nguyen Du." Yet love and largeness of spirit also inform the world of Bruce Weigl, who tells us, "What I have to give you / I feel in my blood, / many small fires / burning into one."("Bear Meadow?)
This latest collection of poems by Sharon Olds is fittingly dedicated to "our daughter and son." Centered on the intense experiences of marital love and parenthood, the book can be read as a (yet unfinished) life-cycle story that begins with the poet narrator’s own conception, birth, and childhood bonds with mother and sister (Part 1). The overpowering awareness of her adolescent sexuality, romantic attachments, and the growth to womanhood, culminating in pregnancy--her daughter’s beginnings--are the subject of the poems in Part 2.
Part 3 describes the birth of her daughter and son, and the deep love and anxieties of parenting, expressed in the small details of daily life and child care. The short Part 4 is a celebration of married love, both erotic and transcendent, and of the powerful emotional connections which are the "wellspring" of human lives--that spawn the children we bring into the world and that help us to love and care for them as well.
The speaker, the "childless woman" of the poem, describes the way infertility has rendered her body aimless and horrible. Her womb, like a dried-out plant, "rattles its pod." Her body is a knot, lines turned back on themselves instead of leading to the future, making it unnatural, "Ungodly as a child’s shriek." All her body can produce is the blood of menstruation, which signifies her own death, and a surreal and horrifying landscape "gleaming with the mouths of corpses." (18 lines)
In the title poem, Jimmy Santiago Baca says: "To write the story of my soul / I trace the silence and stone / of Black Mesa." This collection of poems carries the reader into the mountains and valleys of northern New Mexico, and to the barrio where the poet and his family live. They are poems full of incident and experience, of the "twenty-eight shotgun pellets" that remain in "my thighs, belly, and groin" from an incident with Felipe in 1988 ("From Violence to Peace"), and the slaughter of a sheep to the tattoo of wild drums ("Matanza to Welcome Spring"), and the tragic story of "El Sapo," the Frog King.
Baca’s characters live close to the land, close to the mountains, and sometimes outside the law ("Tomas Lucero"). These poems witness to the violence and despair of barrio life, but also to its energy and joy. Baca’s hope continues "to evolve with the universe / side by side with its creative catastrophe."
Summary:This award-winning collection, published when the author was in her late 80s, contains 96 poems, most of them no more than one page in length. These poems are complex, interesting, surprising, and full of the pain of life. Stone has suffered and she does not hesitate to dwell on the causes of her suffering but she is not maudlin--she has lived and thought about life and she shows us how she lives and thinks.
The poem expresses the devastation that parental abusiveness inflicts and the rationalizations its recipients adopt for emotional survival. In a perverse way, childhood mistreatment by her father meant the narrator was being given his attention. His death has guaranteed that the loving relationship which she had with him at the end of his life is safe from harm. So precarious did she believe his love to be that she feared even now to offend him: "he could / re-skew my life."
Summary:Born with aortic stenosis in 1984, Adam Ferrara Jasheway died suddenly at age nineteen of cardiac arrest. Dedicated to the memory of her son, this collection poignantly charts a mother's trajectory of grief. The poems are divided/organized into six sections paralleling the process of alchemy: calcinatio (burning by fire), solutio (dissolving in water), sublimatio (rising in air), coagulatio (falling to earth), mortificatio (decaying), and transmutatio (healing).