Black Life

( 1 )


You are born and it is to a black life
Full of abuse and strange things . . .

In her brazen second collection, Dorothea Lasky cries out beyond prophecy and confession, through to an even more powerful empathy. On the verge of becoming pure substance and sensation, Black Life is emotion recollected not in ...

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You are born and it is to a black life
Full of abuse and strange things . . .

In her brazen second collection, Dorothea Lasky cries out beyond prophecy and confession, through to an even more powerful empathy. On the verge of becoming pure substance and sensation, Black Life is emotion recollected not in tranquility, but in radically affirming intensity.

I leave and I am a black life . . .
And I want to
Be what you made me to be

Dorothea Lasky is the author of three collections of poetry. Educated at the University of Massachusetts, Washington University, and Harvard University, she currently teaches at Columbia University.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
“All poetry that matters today has feelings in it,” says Lasky deep into her second book, which illustrates how that statement can be true of poems that are also hip and ironic. Though cut of the same cloth as her debut, Awe, this second book is more grown up, darker, burdened with greater weight and responsibility—though still full of flippant, adorable, and silly asides: “The orderly staff waits with the bleach/ Asking me where the diapers are, I do not know,” she remarks in a poem about a father's failing battle with Alzheimer's disease. The death of a father and the loss of a husband come up again and again. Religious faith is also a frequent subject, handled in the same quirky, faux-childish voice as everything else in Lasky's world: “There is only Jesus waiting in my closet/ Like he has been since I was 4 with his red eyes.” If these poems, cast in ragged columns and haphazard lines, often seem dashed off, that's part of the point: they surge with immediacy, meaning and not meaning what they say: “There is a lot to be sad about/ But no point in feeling that sadness/ In a world that has no capacity/ To take your sadness from you in a kind way.” (Apr.)
From the Publisher

"If these poems, cast in ragged columns and haphazard lines, often seem dashed off, that's part of the point: they surge with immediacy, meaning and not meaning what they say."—Publishers Weekly

"Through her specific, strange, and always riveting voice, Lasky reveals truths about the self in relation to all that inspires awe, be it a sexual relationship and its unraveling or metaphysical confrontations with holiness. These poems read as prophetic and yet incredibly immediate."—American Poet

"Balancing a ferocious confessional poetry with her trademark levity and playfulness, Lasky examines the dark undercurrents of what it means to exist with an uncertain expiration date, the very sadness and strangeness of humanity."—Rain Taxi

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933517438
  • Publisher: Wave Books
  • Publication date: 4/1/2010
  • Pages: 77
  • Sales rank: 624,853
  • Product dimensions: 10.04 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 0.29 (d)

Meet the Author

Dorothea Lasky is the author of Thunderbird (Wave Books, 2012), Black Life (Wave Books, 2010), and AWE (Wave Books, 2007). She is also the author of six chapbooks: Matter: A Picturebook (Argos Books, 2012), The Blue Teratorn (Yes Yes Books, 2012), Poetry is Not a Project (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010), Tourmaline (Transmission Press, 2008), The Hatmaker’s Wife (2006), Art (H_NGM_N Press, 2005), and Alphabets and Portraits (Anchorite Press, 2004). Born in St. Louis in 1978, her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, The Laurel Review, MAKE magazine, Phoebe, Poets & Writers Magazine, The New Yorker, Tin House, The Paris Review, and 6x6, among other places. She is a graduate of the MFA program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and also has been educated at Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, and Washington University. She has taught poetry at New York University, Wesleyan University, Columbia University, Fashion Institute of Technology, Heath Elementary School, and Munroe Center for the Arts and has done educational research at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the Philadelphia Zoo, and Project Zero.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    edgy, intense, exhausting...thrill ride

    Dorothea Lasky's new book, Black Life, brims with the chaos of real life and real people fighting to express themselves when shiny and happy words aren't sufficient. A unifying component of the poems is frequent references to her father's battle with dementia, and sprinkled among these are tiny images, made all the more terrifying for their brevity: helpless rest home patients with bald baby heads being beaten by staff. Fire as both purifier and destroyer also makes appearances in unexpected contexts.

    Talking about life, she twists around the state of health into the dimensions of inner and outer well-being, with the two often in fierce juxtaposition. She muses on Emily Dickinson's muse, on anorexia, and refers to pop culture as freely as old boyfriends and husbands. Her voice alters from that of a hyperactive teen to a stalker to an overly-kind ghost. In all of it, she is seldom quiet or sedate.

    In frequent references to poetry, she contrasts the kinds of poetry that exist: pretty and intangible or ugly and real. Therein, she makes it appear that it would be worse to be ignored than blasphemed, and that flowery prose often hides an uncertain intent. From "I Am a Politician",

    I am a politician

    Just watch:

    I will be very nice to you

    But when I turn around I will write the creepiest poems about you that

    Have ever been written.

    Or worse yet,

    I will write nothing about you at all

    And will instead

    Write about the water cascading endlessly in the ocean

    Full of flowers and lovers at their very best...

    She doesn't hide from revealing insecurity, such that her poems often appear inspired by it. In "I Just Feel So Bad", she expresses both loneliness as well as the concept of needing pain in order to function, trying to understand what she has to give and what she can take when thinking "nice" thoughts doesn't work. Her answer is in the final phrases:

    I have no home

    No bread

    I am destitute

    But inside me

    Is a little voice

    That must speak

    It gets louder when you listen

    "ARS Poetica" has a kinesthetic energy to it, almost as if it's the adverbs that matter most...being whatever needs being, but in a big way.

    There is a romantic abandon in me always

    I want to feel the dread for others

    I only feel it through song

    Only through song am I able to sum up so many words into a few

    Like when he said I am no good

    I am no good

    Goodness is not the point anymore

    Holding on to things

    Now that's the point

    The collection is varied and intense. Being about a decade older than Lasky, there were mental moments when I wanted to tell her to relax a bit and slow down. To realize that not all problems will be resolved as quickly as we'd like, but that it's okay to wait them out. The vivid descriptions and staccato action at times felt like it was too edgy to get close to, like the wild person at the party who gets the attention and the laughs but who is terrifying to be alone with for more than a moment.

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