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Ants on the Melon: A Collection of Poems

Ants on the Melon: A Collection of Poems

by Virginia Adair

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Already singled out by The New York Times and the subject of a feature in The New Yorker, Virginia Adair has, after decades of shunning book publication, decided to collect eighty of her best poems in a volume that will surely be hailed as among the most accomplished works of our time.

Ants on the Melon includes poems that concern the


Already singled out by The New York Times and the subject of a feature in The New Yorker, Virginia Adair has, after decades of shunning book publication, decided to collect eighty of her best poems in a volume that will surely be hailed as among the most accomplished works of our time.

Ants on the Melon includes poems that concern the author's childhood, that explore sensuality in candid terms, that starkly treat her husband's suicide and her own blindness, and that explore both her own emotional landscape and the universal mysteries of the human condition. Technically brilliant, using strict, classical prosody, yet entirely modern in sensibility, Virginia Adair's poetry will play a central role in the ongoing American poetry renaissance.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Brad Leithauser
...[E]xhibits enough formal variety, freshness and intelligence to confirm...that Adair is a poet of accomplishment and originality.
The New York Times Book Review
Library Journal
The appearance of a first collection by a poet now blind and in her 83rd year must be accounted a triumph, and it is hardly to be wondered at if the result is a little uneven. Adair, recently profiled in The New Yorker, works with equal daring in free verse and more traditional forms; her subjects include social and religious commentary, but her principal theme is ordinary experience and its resistance to facile interpretation. It is a shame that most of the poems are not dated: given the variousness of her style and the reminiscences about poets as different as William Carlos Williams, Hart Crane, and May Sarton, it would have been useful to know more about her development over more than 60 years of writing. Some poems might have been excluded, but in her better poems-the memory-pictures of "The Grandmothers" or "One Ordinary Evening," the visionary topographies of "Blackened Rings" or "In Dublin's Fair City, 1963"-there is a free ingenuousness not often heard in contemporary writing. Much of Adair's work should appeal to nonspecialists as well as to poets; recommended for most collections.-Graham Christian, Andover-Harvard Theological Lib., Cambridge, Mass.
Patricia Monaghan
Expect demand for this book of poetry. (Now, there's a sentence seldom seen.) Octogenarian retired professor Adair has published many individual poems but no previous collections. The phenomenon of her witty, articulate, urbane, polished, but also immediately accessible verse coming to greater attention in her life's winter has already been noted in the popular press, and the book's contents satisfy the advance publicity's claims. Here is a crisp and riveting poem on Hiroshima--a word that sounds like "the ocean wind" spoken by voices "triumphant and horrified." Here is a simple, sensuous, tragic poem to the poet's husband, recalling a simple, sensous, tender moment shortly before his suicide, which, Adair says, "I have never understood / I will never understand." This book may well broaden the audience for poetry.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt

Now You Need Me

When the rains come
you remember
our old closeness
humping along
in the wet.
You grope the dark
where I hang
by my crooked neck.
You pull off my cover
shake me till my
ribs jingle
and a moth flies out.
Your hand reaches under
my black skirt
and up one leg
thin as a cane
until I open wide
with a rusty squawk
hovering above you
like a dark and loving
raven, said the old
umbrella, her night
full of holes.

Peeling an Orange

Between you and a bowl of oranges I lie nude
Reading The World's Illusion through my tears.
You reach across me hungry for global fruit,
Your bare arm hard, furry and warm on my belly.
Your fingers pry the skin of a naval orange
Releasing tiny explosions of spicy oil.
You place peeled disks of gold in a bizarre pattern
On my white body. Rearranging, you bend and bite
The disks to release further their eager scent.
I say "Stop, you're tickling," my eyes still on the page.
Aromas of groves arise. Through green leaves
Glow the lofty snows. Through red lips
Your white teeth close on a translucent segment.
Your face over my face eclipses The World's Illusion.
Pulp and juice pass into my mouth from your mouth.
We laugh against each other's lips. I hold my book
Behind your head, still reading, still weeping a little.
You say "Read on, I'm just an illusion," rolling
Over upon me soothingly, gently moving,
Smiling greenly through long lashes. And soon
I say "Don't stop. Don't disillusion me."
Snows melt. The mountain silvers into many a stream.
The oranges are golden worlds in a dark dream.

One Ordinary Evening

Lying entwined with you
on the long sofa

the hi-fi helping
Isolde to her climax

I was clipping
the coarse hairs

from your ears
and ruby nostrils

when you said, "Music
for cutting nose wires"

and we shook so
the nailscissors nicked

your gentle neck
blood your blood

I cleansed the place
with my tongue

and we clung tight
pelted with Teutonic cries

till the player
lifted its little prick

from the groove
all arias over

leaving us
in post-Wagnerian sadness

later that year
you were dead

by your own hand
blood your blood

I have never understood
I will never understand.

An Hour to Dance

For a while we whirled
over the meadows of music
our sadness put away in purses
stuffed into old shoes or shawls

the children we never were
from cellars and closets
attics and faded snapshots
came out to leap for love
on the edge of an ocean of tears

like a royal flotilla
Alice's menagerie swam by
no tale is endless
the rabbit opened his watch
muttering late, late
time to grow

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Virginia Hamilton Adair was born in 1913 in New York City. Educated at Kimberly, Mt. Holyoke, Radcliffe, and the University of Wisconsin, she taught briefly at Wisconsin, William & Mary, and Pomona College, and for many years at California Polytechnic University at Pomona. She lives in Claremont, California.

From the Hardcover edition.

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