Ants on the Melon: A Collection of Poems

Ants on the Melon: A Collection of Poems

by Virginia Hamilton Adair

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"        Virginia Adair speaks directly and unaffectedly, in an accent stripped of mannerism and allusion. Ants on the Melon exhibits enough formal variety, freshness, and intelligence to confirm, at one stroke, that Ms. Adair is a poet of accomplishment and originality."
—Brad Leithauser, The New York Times


"        Virginia Adair speaks directly and unaffectedly, in an accent stripped of mannerism and allusion. Ants on the Melon exhibits enough formal variety, freshness, and intelligence to confirm, at one stroke, that Ms. Adair is a poet of accomplishment and originality."
—Brad Leithauser, The New York Times Book Review

"        Extraordinarily moving. Her voice is clear, assured, varied, and utterly her own."
—A. Alvarez, The New York Review of Books

"        The rhyme is ingenious, the humor saucy and unsparing, and the author clearly takes a delight in perversity, in an inversion of the expected."
—Alice Quinn, The New Yorker

"        How bright and unmuddled and unaffected and unswerving these poems are. There's such aplomb, no faking, such a true hard edge. They never miss."
—Alice Munro

"        Adair writes with a thinking heart's and a feeling mind's unusual clarity. Here is a sensual, wise, precise, amazing voice."
—Sharon Olds

Virginia Hamilton Adair is America's most widely read and respected serious poet. Ants on the Melon has already become a landmark in the nation's literary history, and the advent of this paperback edition guarantees that her great gifts will be recognized and appreciated by an even larger audience.

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.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Modern Library Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.25(d)

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 morosely 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 old

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 passed away on September 16, 2004.

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