Showing 61 - 70 of 715 Poetry annotations

My Life as a Doll

Kirschner, Elizabeth

Last Updated: Oct-27-2010
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In this collection, which is really a poetry memoir or lengthy poetry sequence, the speaker develops her narrative of a tormented childhood and adolescence, psychological breakdowns, and ongoing struggle in a more "normal" present.  The poems are labeled only by section, of which there are four, and are separated simply by their spacing on the page.  Section 1, "Cuckoo," reveals the origin of the poet's "life as a doll": "After my mother hit the back /of my head with the bat's /sweet spot, light cried / its way out of my body. . . . I was  . . . a doll carved out of a dog's bones . . . my life as a doll / was a life of waiting" (4-5).  Mother was an abusive alcoholic (there seems to be no father ever on the scene).

Section 2, "An Itty Bitty Ditty," concentrates on the speaker's adolescence, which was one of promiscuity and parental neglect.  "Pretty, said Mom / on the night of the prom . . . Pretty, she said as though / I were a ditty, an itty bitty / ditty not even God would pity. / Ditty gone silent.  ditty gone numb" (27).  At age 19 the poet/speaker "took a razor to my wrists"; she was pregnant with an unwanted child at age 20: "Cold walked into me and through me . . . How do you undo someone who's / already undone?" (32-33).

In the third section of the collection,"Tra-la-la," we are whisked ahead to the time when the poet is married and has an 11- year-old son.  At her son's birthday she has a psychotic break and her husband brings her to the hospital.  "When I / stepped out of the car, I sang, /  "tra-la-la," as if I were / Cinderella going to an enchanted ball"  (41).  This section is concerned with her institutionalization and psychotherapy with "Dr. Flesh."  The poet is not enamored of Dr. Flesh, who puts her on display for a group of students "who wanted to be  / just like Dr. Flesh  / who was special, / very very special / unlike me" (43) and who yawns during therapy sessions (44).  The poet also satirizes her diagnostic workup -- a 500 question survey:"Do you like golf? it asked / and when I wrote 'no' / I was diagnosed" (49).  The final section, "O Healing Go Deep," is both a railing and incomprehension about the way the poet's mother treated her, and a plea for sanity: "enough I say of my careening / craziness, of being /a thing in thin wind / running away from Mother" (59).

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One Breath

Clark-Sayles, Catharine

Last Updated: Sep-03-2010
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This suggestively titled collection of poems provides a lyric record of a physician’s way of seeing.  The situations to which the poems bear witness are not only medical, though many are.  Some are cityscapes into which are woven surprisingly astute observations of homeless people or hitchhikers or ducks in the park.  Some explore the geography of a body where memories are held in “neuron chains.”  Some articulate bits of personal history from the point of view of a woman who has spent years in medicine, caring for the elderly, seeing bodies with the double vision of a clinician and a person whose spirituality clearly informs all she sees.

Titles like “ER Alphabet of Hurt” or “Looking for God On the Radio” or “Hippocrates Voyeur” or simply “Scars” may give some sense of the range of focus.  Her vision and voice are strongly local; those who know Marin County, north of San Francisco, will recognize the places that become the poet’s personal geography.  Those who don’t will still see in these poems a sensibility shaped and refined by the knowledge that comes from deep habitation.  

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Chronic Progressive

Cohen, Marion

Last Updated: Jul-29-2010
Annotated by:
Schilling, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In Chronic Progressive, a collection of 151 short poems divided into three parts, Marion Deutsche Cohen, a well spouse, continues her startlingly candid account of caring for her husband Jeff that began in her previous collection, Epsilon Country (1995, see annotation).  Part I of Chronic Progressive describes Cohen's frustrations during the last of the 16 years that she cared for Jeff at home, as multiple sclerosis left him almost completely dependent on her.  Mother of four, a prolific writer, a poet, and a mathematician, Cohen describes unrelenting stress when family services and insurance providers fail her, when she feels she must protect the sanctity of her home as health care aides and agencies treat it like a hospital or nursing home, or when she's exhausted, which is most of the time.  "It's a state, a / chronic state, a chronic progressive incurable state," she writes (55).

The middle section, the longest, follows Cohen during the ten years Jeff resides in Inglis House, a Philadelphia care facility.  These poems mix reflections on the past with working out the rhythms of life without Jeff in the house, but still unshakably on her mind.  In this section, she also writes "The Last Love Poem for Jeff" and anticipates his death in "A New Vow": "I will give you the best deathbed anyone ever had" (108).  In Part III, Cohen experiences relief and begins life with a new spouse after Jeff's death.  She recalls herself as ". . . the one he began with, the one he'll end with / the one who's been too much in the middle" (162).  But she quickly turns to "Wedding Preparations Former Well Spouse Style" and the "Love Poem for Her New Love."

Taken altogether, the poems reveal a profound effort to sustain vitality and remake ways of living-with integrity-at the edge of human endurance.  "Yes, how readily we reclaim our territories," Cohen observes near the end of her book (180).

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Your Tired, Your Poor

Mueller, Lisel

Last Updated: Jul-28-2010
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Mueller traces the path from forced exodus/immigration to struggling with a new language, to the eventual day when "you dream in rhyme, in a language / you never wanted to understand." In this evocation of diaspora and eventual acculturation, speech and language are important metaphors.

The poem is in three sections. Part 1, "Asylum," (14 lines) is enclosed by quotation marks, perhaps because the speaker describing a border crossing is still articulate in her native tongue. This section is highly personalized, written in the first person, and speaks of homesickness, dislocation, abandonment--"the life you say I must leave . . . bundled and tied . . . for the trash collector."

Part 2, "English as a Second Language," (15 lines) is written in the third person and describes the state of estrangement from meaning that accompanies unfamiliarity with a new language and culture. Letters of the alphabet become "crushing crossbar[s]" and "spying eyes." This section ends, however, with some hope that understanding will develop: the letters for the word "tree" might become intelligible, "could take root, / could develop leaves."

The final 16 line section, "Crossing Over," is written in the second person and marks the day when the transition to the new country and the new life and the new language is as complete as it ever will be. Now fully able to comprehend her surroundings, the speaker feels compelled to name the details of her environment, finds herself "humming the music you stuffed your ears against" and notices a certain strangeness when she communicates with those she left behind--"voices from home arrive . . . bent by the ocean."

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The Man with Night Sweats

Gunn, Thom

Last Updated: Jul-27-2010
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The theme of this book of poems is life in a time of deadly plague. The author depicts his world ravaged by illness. Some of the poems are quiet love songs for others, for the world and its delights, a world turned upside-down by the ravages of AIDS. Many of the poems are elegies for friends who have died in the epidemic.

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Letters to a Stranger

James, Thomas

Last Updated: Jul-25-2010
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Letters to a stranger is a slim volume of poems by Thomas James ((1946 - 1974) posthumously collected and published in 2008 by an admiring reader/ critic, Lucy Brock-Broido. James died by suicide in 1974.

There are 54 poems in all. Forty-one of them were first published in 1973 as James's only published book of verse, Letters to a Stranger. Ms Brock-Broido has collected 13 more from various small magazines. Most have a faint formalistic ring to them with rhymed triplets (a-x-a) predominating.   Preceding the poems is an introduction by Ms Brock-Broido, an introduction that can only be called unusually confessional. (In his characteristically succinct diction, series editor Mark Doty calls it "a love letter, a biography and exorcism all at once".) For subjects, the bulk of the poems have, as we call a type of educational conference in medicine, morbidity and mortality. Indeed, the book might perhaps have been more appropriately entitled "Intimations of morbidity and mortality". Many of the poems are graphic.

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Phenomenal Woman

Angelou, Maya

Last Updated: Jun-08-2010
Annotated by:
Terry, James

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In four proud stanzas, the poet reveals her self-confidence, her graceful rhythm and style, and the inner strength of her femininity. Rather than fashion-magazine beauty, she exults in things like "the stride of my step" or "the swing in my waist "or "the ride of my breasts". In the final stanza she asserts, "When you see me passing / It ought to make you proud." Each stanza closes with the refrain: "I’m a woman / Phenomenally. / Phenomenal woman, / That’s me."

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Amazing Change

Carroll, Robert

Last Updated: Jun-04-2010
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In his preface to Amazing Change, Robert Carroll speaks directly about the power of poetry to heal. At a time of great personal loss, he says, "I began writing as a way of dealing with the inchoate, yet overwhelming, feelings I was experiencing... hopefully, to facilitate a healing process for myself." The poems collected in Amazing Change, which bears the subtitle "Poetry of Healing and Transformation: The Wisdom That Illness, Death and Dying Provide," reveal the depth and power of that healing process. They show the reader that poetic healing not only engages a person in self-discovery, but also in sharing that discovery with others. Wholeness is a community project.

While Amazing Change deals with serious subjects, many of the poems approach the subjects with humor and a light touch of irony. This is particularly true in "Dr. Bob's Psychomedical Poetics--Infomercial 1" (pp. 78-80) and "Dr. Bob's Psychomedical Poetics--Infomercial 2" (pp. 109-111). "Spiritual Soup" (p. 93) is another example of the value of humor in the good life, along with other core ingredients like marriage, prayer, hospitality, blues, hope, and pot luck.

Among the finest poems in this collection is "Kaddesh for My Father" (pp. 47-53). Written in filial homage to the poet's father, in artistic homage to Allen Ginsberg, and in spiritual homage to the Judaic tradition, "Kaddesh for My Father" seamlessly integrates personal detail and anecdote about his father with ritualized expressions of prayer and emotion.  In this and many other poems, Carroll employs poetic form and/or historical exemplars to enhance the meaning of his work, but never allows them to constrain or dilute his personal vision.

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Dying for Beginners

Clary, Patrick

Last Updated: Jun-04-2010
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Patrick Clary's Dying for Beginners is a collection of vibrant poems about living (as well as dying); about family, friends, music, loss, war and love. The book's title is evocative of the countercultural insight that dying is an essential part of living.  We only become fully human by coming to grips with our own mortality.  This engagement with mortality emerges from love and humor, as well as from suffering and loss.  Clary's poems speak to what he has discovered about himself, as a beginner to his fellow beginners.

The poet's route to discovery traverses Death Valley, where, during a spiritual retreat and vision quest, he has this epiphany: "Suddenly, I find all my wounds are turning into blessings" (p. 1). This inversion of categories is not an exotic, one-off event, but becomes a new way of looking at the world, a perspective in which life events, carefully observed and described, blossom with deeper meanings that can only be expressed by metaphor or paradox. For example, in "Days I Don't Remember," Clary reflects, "And all my roads are turning into rivers" (p. 27). Or, in "Meditation on the Pays d'Oc," he observes, "Instead of dying, I cough up a butterfly, watch it / dry its wings in the sun..." (p. 74). Or the essential quietism of "That silence moving through our lives was me" (p. 33).

The poet had his first lessons in dying when he worked as a medic during the Vietnam War, In "Orientation at Bien Hoa," he discovers, "Yes, gentlemen / This little war here / Exists only / For one reason: / To give you all the pleasure / You can handle" (p. 10).  He also learns how easy it is to kill with an M 16 rifle, which can "Put eighteen holes in / Whatever you point it at / Inside of two seconds" (p. 11). Meanwhile, the human tragedy of Vietnam takes place all around him.  

Clary reflects on the limits of his calling in "Three Variations", where he observes his own hands, "professionally / Tender on demand, but still uneasy / At your easy tenderness" (p. 35). The words "professionally tender on demand" evoke his work in palliative medicine, although the same words could-and should-apply to medical practice in general.  But Clary recognizes that the human capacity for compassion is not inexhaustible. There will always be a tension between the work that needs to be done ("another pair of hands in the emergency room," p. 63) and our limited reserves of kindness and empathy.

The book ends with a humorous and moving short prose narrative ("Origins of the Earwax Patrol," pp. 83-86) about caring for terminally ill patients.

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A Mind Apart

Bauer, Mark

Last Updated: Apr-21-2010
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Anthology (Poems)

Summary:

Edited by psychiatrist and poet Mark Bauer, this anthology collects poems about mental illness, broadly defined to include such topics as alcoholism and drug abuse, depression and melancholia, and post-traumatic experiences (with World War I's shell-shock and the Vietnam war's PTSD represented by Siegfried Sassoon, Ivor Gurney, and Wilfred Owen, and Yusuf Komunyakaa, respectively).  Bauer provides an introductory essay, arranges the selections chronologically rather than thematically, and, in a welcome touch at the end, offers brief biographical sketches of the authors.  A Mind Apart would form a nice companion piece to Poets on Prozac, edited by Richard Berlin

The represented poets are: Thomas Hoccleve, Charles d'Orleans, William Dunbar, Alexander Barclay, Fulke Greville, Thomas Lodge, William Shakespeare, Sir Henry Wotton, Sir John Davies, Robert Burton, John Fletcher and/or Thomas Middleton, Lady Mary Wroth, Robert Herrick, George Herbert, John Milton, Anne Bradstreet, Margaret Cavendish, Thomas Traherne, James Carkesse, Anne Finch, Edward Ward, Isaac Watts, Edward Young, William Harrison, Mary Barber, Matthew Green, William Collins, Thomas Mozeen, Christopher Smart, Thomas Warton, William Cowper, Robert Fergusson, Thomas Chatterton, John Codrington Bampfylde, William Blake, Robert Bloomfield, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George Gordon (Lord Byron), Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Clare, John Keats, Thomas Haynes Bayly, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Alfred Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, Sydney Dobell, Emily Dickinson, Henry Kendall, Thomas Hardy, Robert Bridges, Gerard Manley Hopkins, A. Mary F. Robinson, Ernest Dowson, Edward Thomas, Siegfried Sassoon, Ivor Gurney, Wilfred Owen, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, Louise Bogan, Hart Crane, (John Orley) Allen Tate, Richard David Comstock, Stanley Kunitz, Theodore Roethke, Elizabeth Bishop, J. V. Cunningham, Delmore Schwartz, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell, Weldon Kees, Dylan Thomas, Robert Lowell, Robert Edward Duncan, Howard Nemerov, Hayden Carruth, Philip Larkin, Anthony Hecht, Richard Hugo, James Schuyler, Donald Justice, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Bly, Wiley Clemens, Anne Sexton, Carl Wolfe Solomon, Ned O'Gorman, Stuart Z. Perkoff, Sylvia Plath, Lucille Clifton, Jim Harrison, Les Murray, Sharon Olds, Timothy Dekin, Quincy Troupe, Thomas P. Beresford, R. L. Barth, Jane Kenyon, Yusef Komunyakaa, Joseph Salemi, Aimee Grunberger, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Mark Jarman, Franz Wright, David Baker, Michael Lauchlan, Joe Bolton, Kelly Ann Malone, Brian Turner, Kevin Young, Jeff Holt, Ricky Cantor, Anne Stevenson, and several contributions that are anonymous, including some from nineteenth century popular songs and selections from two collections of poetry by people with mental illness.

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