A Kiss in Space: Poems

A Kiss in Space: Poems

by Mary Jo Salter
     
 

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From the first poem, which takes us up in a hot-air balloon over Chartres, to the last, in which a Russian cosmonaut welcomes an American colleague onto the Mir space station, Mary Jo Salter's exhilarating fourth collection draws the reader into the long distances of the imagination and the intimacies of the heart.

Poignant poems about her own past--such as

Overview

From the first poem, which takes us up in a hot-air balloon over Chartres, to the last, in which a Russian cosmonaut welcomes an American colleague onto the Mir space station, Mary Jo Salter's exhilarating fourth collection draws the reader into the long distances of the imagination and the intimacies of the heart.

Poignant poems about her own past--such as "Libretto," in which a childhood initiation into opera merges with a family drama--are set against historical poems such as "The Seven Weepers," where a nineteenth-century English explorer in Australia comes face-to-face with the Aborigines his own people have doomed to decimation.

The book's centerpiece, "Alternating Currents," juxtaposes real historical figures like Alexander
Graham Bell and Helen Keller with their fictional contemporaries Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, as each of them plumbs the mysteries of perception.

Along the way are poems on family life, on films (from home movies to Hollywood romances), on travel in France, and on works of art (from a child's fingerpainted refrigerator magnet to Titian's last painting).
In this splendid and engaging collection, Mary Jo Salter pays homage with wit and compassion to the precious dailiness of life on earth, while gazing tantalizingly beyond its boundaries to view such wondrous events as a kiss in space.

Editorial Reviews

Melanie Rehak
...[Chart] the poet's travels beyond the confines of the physical world...[on] the journey each of us makes away from our past and toward an uncertain future.
New York Times Book Review
[Salter] again presents her formidable talents in accessible, imaginative verse....[She brings] into focus the miracles of domestic matters and quotidian experiences.
Library Journal
The "kiss in space" is between American astronaut Norman Thagard and Russian astronaut Yelena Kondakova, but all of Salter's poems could be kisses in space: gifts blown through the air to her readers. Dainty but tough, Salter's verse ranges from "Fire-Breathing Dragon"--"Impossible, and yet I seem/ to be dropped in the basket like a cut/ flower trembling on its stem"--to "A Rainbow over the Seine" to "Video Blues," a witty diatribe about her husband's passion for Myrna Loy. The cultural references here are certainly rich and astounding, but they're also fun--and not one wit pretentious. What a delight to read a poet who doesn't focus relentlessly on the long-suffering "I." Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
A lecturer at Mount Holyoke, the author of three previous volumes of verse, and a co-editor of the Norton Anthology of Poetry, Salter continues to write charming and transparent poems, many bearing a bluestocking wit and the sensibility of a smart coed. Precious without being arch, Salter's careful measures expertly recall times in France (with just a soupçon of advanced conversational French): "Fire-Breathing Dragon" describes ballooning across the countryside, with visions of Chartres; another poem delights in a rainbow over the Seine; in "Brief Candle," visitors light candles in Sacre-Coeur; the speaker enjoys a Titian painting in the Louvre ("The Jewel of the World"); and she contemplates a couple enjoying a meal while it hails outside the restaurant ("Hail in Honfleur"). In Australia, she watches a kangaroo nurse ("Kangaroo") and imagines the life of explorer Charles Sturt coming upon a circle of weeping natives ("The Seven Weepers"). Salter finds inspiration in small things—a robin's nest, shoes dangling from a tree, her daughter reading next to her on the bed; and in some weightier events: the title poem celebrates a kiss of greeting between American and Russian astronauts in space. Movies lead to visions of mortality ("A Leak Somewhere") and good-humored jealousy in a villanelle about her husband's crush on Myrna Loy ("Video Blues"). The centerpiece of the book, a fully imagined sequence of poems blending facts about Helen Keller, Conan Doyle, and Alexander Graham Bell, is a clever play of light and invention. Salter's formal skills often compensate for her slender vision.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375704994
Publisher:
Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/24/2000
Pages:
96
Product dimensions:
5.86(w) x 8.32(h) x 0.31(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Rainbow over the Seine

        Noiseless at first, a spray
    of mist in the face, a nose-
gay of moisture never
    destined to be a downpour.
        Until the sodden cloud
    banks suddenly empty
into the Seine with a loud
    clap, then a falling ovation
        for the undrenchable
    sun--which goes on shining
our shoes while they're filling
    like open boats and the sails
        of our newspaper hats
    are flagging, and seeing
that nobody thought to bring
    an umbrella, puts
        up a rainbow instead.
    A rainbow over the Seine,
perfectly wrought as a draw-
    bridge dreamed by a child
        in crayon, and by the law
    of dreams the connection
once made can only be lost;
    not being children
        we stand above the grate
    of the Metro we're not
taking, thunder underfoot, and
    soak up what we know:
        the triumph of this arc-
    en-ciel, the dazzle
of this monumental
    prism cut by drizzle, is
thatit vanishes.

What People are saying about this

Joseph Brodsky
Salter's work embodies tha marriage of auperb craftsmanship to the tragic sense of reality, which is the formula of true poetry.

Meet the Author

Mary Jo Salter grew up in Detroit and Baltimore, and was educated at Harvard and at Cambridge University. She is the author of three previous collections of poems, Henry Purcell in Japan (1985), Unfinished Painting (1989, the Lamont Selection for the year's most distinguished second volume of poetry), and Sunday Skaters (1994), as well as a children's book, The Moon Comes Home (1989). She is also an editor of The Norton Anthology of Poetry.

Her many awards include a recent year in France on an Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship.
An Emily Dickinson Lecturer in the Humanities at Mount Holyoke College, she lives in South Hadley, Massachusetts, with her husband, the writer Brad Leithauser, and their daughters, Emily and Hilary.

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