All We Need of Hell

Overview

Much of what Rika Lesser has to say can be compared to the poetry of Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Ann Sexton, Delmore Schwartz, and other poets who have struggled with manic-depressive illness. What sets her poetry apart, according to Richard Howard, is “the plot and purpose of her sequence to take us through the harrowing experiences she creates in her lines, and out the other side . . . this is where her book differs so from the sensational indulgences we are so familiar ...

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Overview

Much of what Rika Lesser has to say can be compared to the poetry of Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Ann Sexton, Delmore Schwartz, and other poets who have struggled with manic-depressive illness. What sets her poetry apart, according to Richard Howard, is “the plot and purpose of her sequence to take us through the harrowing experiences she creates in her lines, and out the other side . . . this is where her book differs so from the sensational indulgences we are so familiar with.”

The book begins with poems on suicide attempts, clinical depression and mania which will attract readers with a special interest in “poetic madness.” But in the end the poet turns from death to a full engagement and participation in “normal life” and all that it entails.

In addition to the general poetry audience, this book will appeal to medical ethicists, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and others needing insight into manic-depressive illnesses.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In her second collection (after Etruscan Things), Lesser leads her readers on an exploration of mental illness that is less a descent into madness than a journey towards emotional health. Detailing her experience with depressionsuicide attempts, hospitalizations and the often devastating effects of medicationLesser demystifies depressive illness in poems that are direct, reflective and instructive (a glossary of pharmaceutical and medical terms is included). These are not highly figurative or dramatic poems like Plath's, to whom Lesser will inevitably be compared. Instead, Lesser rejects ornament and artifice, the ``merely beautiful'' and ``well-made'' verses that now leave her cold, in favor of straightforward, often journal-like, narratives that ``praise simple/ actions, human/ and possible.'' Lesser plumbs language (etymologies, sounds, the work of literary predecessors) for its regenerative powers as she faces her own illness and the deaths of friends from AIDS and cancer: ``... if there have been no words, no tropes for/ such occasions before, I must find them now.'' (July)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780929398921
  • Publisher: University of North Texas Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/1995
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 88
  • Product dimensions: 6.01 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 0.32 (d)

Table of Contents

The Room 3
A Question of Belief 5
For the Record 6
Black Stones I 9
Black Stones II 10
Black Stones III 11
The Second Time 12
On Lithium: After One Year 14
On Lithium: After Two 15
Nepenthe 17
Other Lives 21
Black Stones IV: (First Sight) 24
Black Stones V: (From One to Another) 25
Black Stones VI: (Falling) 27
Escape Attempt 29
Shocking Treatment 31
A Valediction: Forbidding Moving 33
Matthew's Passion 37
Black Stones VII: (Others, Can wrestle - ) 39
Black Stones VIII: (And were You lost, I would be - ) 40
Black Stones IX: (And I, and Silence) 42
Black Stones X: (As yet but knock, breathe, shine ...) 43
On Lithium: The Third Year 44
White Stone 46
Black Stones XI: (Flight) 48
Love 50
Black Stones XII: (Care) 51
For Jean 52
Life: It Must Suffice Us 54
Black Stones XIII: (As light) 56
Black Stones XIV: (Past tense) 58
On Lithium: Extended Terms 63
Departures 66
The Other Life 69
For a Friend 73
For Elisabeth 74
September '92: Measures 76
Epilogue: Dodsdansen 79
Glossary 81
Notes 84
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