Breast cancer is a constant presence in this collection of poems by Hilda Raz. Part 1 begins with the poet's uncertainty and fear as she sits with her daughter in the oncologist's office. "I'm still me, same me no / matter what he says. Biopsy report shocks me," she writes in "Weathering/boundaries/what is good." After going under the knife, she further reports, "In the past year / I have given up four of the five organs / the body holds to call itself woman." ("For Barbara, Who Brings a Green Stone in the Shape of a Triangle").

Later, in "Breast/fever" she speaks of her new breast, "two months old, gel used in bicycle saddles . . .

/ stays cold under my skin / when the old breast is warm." Several of the poems evoke her daughter Sarah, both as a child and as a capable young woman who responds to her mother's cancer--"she knows whom to call, / where to go, or she'll find out, I'm not to worry . . . . " ("Sarah's Response")

The poet's illness is a route to self-discovery. Hilda Raz reconstitutes herself with insight, pragmatism, and humor. As she writes in "Nuts," "Nuts to beauty. / Bikini, music, then the childbed . . .

/ Nuts to the mirror." At the end of the book, "The fingers of rain are tapping again. / I send out my heart's drum." ("Recovery")


Let the divine honors go to the physical and sensuous language of Hilda Raz's poems, and to their humanity. Other fine poems on the experience of breast cancer include Marilyn Hacker's Cancer Winter, and Alicia Ostriker's The Mastectomy Poems. See also Her Soul beneath the Bone: Women's Poetry on Breast Cancer, edited by Leatrice H. Lifshitz, and Audre Lorde's The Cancer Journals.


Wesleyan Univ. Press

Place Published

Hanover, N.H.



Page Count