Captivity

Captivity

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by Laurie Sheck
     
 

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The “exquisite and haunting” (Booklist) collection of poems built around the language and mystique of American captivity narratives in which Sheck enters the vivid life we live inside our own minds and selves, and takes us into the mysterious underside of consciousness and selfhood.


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Overview

The “exquisite and haunting” (Booklist) collection of poems built around the language and mystique of American captivity narratives in which Sheck enters the vivid life we live inside our own minds and selves, and takes us into the mysterious underside of consciousness and selfhood.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The squat, long-lined poems of Sheck's fifth collection meditate on American captivity narratives�stories popular in the late 17th century, such as Mary Rowlandson's A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, often about abduction by Native Americans�as metaphors for the limitations of consciousness and the poetry that tries to render it. These narratives are directly addressed in the 17 "Removes," a term taken from Rowlandson's book. Elsewhere, Sheck (Black Series) references other singularly American figures, including Dickinson, Stevens, William James and Emerson. Sheck relishes the "slow conversion of myself into nothingness," a necessary (and often violent) step toward understanding "this chain of feelings by which we mean (if it is that) a self." These poems at times seem to court vagueness�words such as "scatter," "broken," and "elsewhere" are among Sheck's most precise descriptive terms. Some readers may find that Sheck exhausts her themes and the time from which they originate; modernity appears infrequently, and when it does�in the form of "a computer screen candescing," the human genome and one "marketing director"�the effect is jarring. Throughout, however, Sheck's long lines sustain an elegant uncertainty, and her fractured syntax calls both Dickinson and Gerard Manley Hopkins to mind: "The seconds slant and coarse with split-asunder." (Feb.)

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Library Journal

This petite volume of 71 poems physically resembles a psalm book or a journal. And yet, because the poet is Scheck (Black Series, among other collections), the reader should expect neither comfort nor context. Scheck's high-modern aesthetic attempts to isolate whorls of thought from the world's backdrop. Each brief poem is an isolated gesture, a voice asserting itself against the white page as if to say, I am what is not. "The Thirteenth Remove" (the lovely noun removeis borrowed from a colonial captivity narrative) gets to the psychological point: "You who paint, if you painted us, we are the spots on the canvas left uncovered." From poem to poem, there are traces of a world—a hospital, a windowed landscape—but no explanations beyond the occasional jarring detail: "today the fasting girl died." Motifs of death and illness alternate with a charged diction that the poet attributes to her "interactions with Gerard Manley Hopkins' journals." The topic is consciousness as it wavers between captivity and liberty, from "this white unswaying place" to "this green, this blueness," where the speaker finds that "sometimes what you look at hard seems to look hard at you." For sophisticated readers.
—Ellen M. Kaufman

From the Publisher
“Sheck [is] one of the most accomplished lyric poets writing in America today.” —Boston Review

“These lyrics bring fresh insight out of numbness and joy out of sorrow.” —The New Leader

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307494344
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/27/2012
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
96
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Laurie Sheck is the author of four previous books of poetry, including Black Series and The Willow Grove, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work appears widely in such journals as The New Yorker, The Kenyon Review, Verse, and Boston Review. The recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation, Sheck has also been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and is a 2006–7 Fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. She teaches in the MFA Program at the New School and lives in New York City.


From the Hardcover edition.

Read an Excerpt

The First RemoveThe others hiding away when they took her. Eventually I learned other words. Assere for knives. Toras: North. Satewa: alone.Always a breakdown of systems that will not be restored. Something cuts itself in me. It’s not a question of refusal.Esteronde: to rain. Tesenochte: I do not know. The shattered of, and then the narrowness opening where the vanished touches it–Then how the mind recombines and overthrows–The Fourth RemoveThe way sunlight amends The eyes, too, grow practiced in unsteadiness and fracture.I write this to you on air as I walk, but I think now all summary is betrayal. I picture your hands lifting a fork or folding cloth, while at the same timeI’m thinking, it was believed if their cornfields were cut down they would starve and die with hunger, And was missing from and could learn no tidings . . . And they who have taken meWere driven from the little they had . . . he fetched me some water and told me I could wash. All these so braided, where hurt is building nimbly.I feel a pleasure of never contained sweep over me, now that I know place is never Clear or wholly settled, not even the veins on the underside of a leaf, its freedoms.Crossing is a hard simple. The feet register the merest intervals and shifts; All that is tracked is also otherwise and hidden.And water lies plainlyThen I came to an edge of very calm But couldn’t stay there. It was the washed greenblue mapmakers use to indicateInlets and coves, softbroken contours where the land leaves off And water lies plainly, as if lamped by its own justice. I hardly know how to say how it wasThough it spoke to me most kindly, Unlike a hard afterwards or the motions of forestalling.Now in evening light the far-off ridge carries marks of burning. The hills turn thundercolored, and my thoughts move toward them, rough skinsWithout their bodies. What is the part of us that feels it isn’t named, that doesn’t know How to respond to any name? That scarcely or not at all can lift its headInto the blue and so unfold there?


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