Culture of One

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Overview

A new collection that captures the austere serenity of the Southwest American desert.

Award-winning, Paris-based poet Alice Notley's adventurous new book is inspired by the life of Marie, a woman who resided in the dump outside Notley's hometown in the Southwestern desert of America. In this poetical fantasy, Marie becomes the ultimate artist/poet, composing a codex-calligraphy, writings, paintings, collage-from materials left at the dump. She is a "culture of one." The story is...

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Culture of One

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Overview

A new collection that captures the austere serenity of the Southwest American desert.

Award-winning, Paris-based poet Alice Notley's adventurous new book is inspired by the life of Marie, a woman who resided in the dump outside Notley's hometown in the Southwestern desert of America. In this poetical fantasy, Marie becomes the ultimate artist/poet, composing a codex-calligraphy, writings, paintings, collage-from materials left at the dump. She is a "culture of one." The story is told in long-lined, clear-edged poems deliberately stacked so the reader can keep plunging headlong into the events of the book. Culture of One offers further proof of how Notley "has freed herself from any single notion of what poetry should be so that she can go ahead and write what poetry can be" (The Boston Review).

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Notley's newest book (she's written over 30) is a verse narrative about a woman named Marie who lives in a dump and makes art. She is based on a real person Notley encountered in her youth in the American Southwest, though decades after the real Marie's death, her character becomes an archetypal outsider artist who "made figures out of wood and rocks and cord and burntness and whatever." She's orbited by characters who move through a kind of sideways story that isn't really the point of the book (really, it's a collection of linked lyric poems in fluid, prosy lines). There's the (sort-of) romantic interest, Leroy, who "had been lying so/ much he couldn't think straight," at least he lies until a rattlesnake bite cures him. There's also the rock star, Eve Love, and a few others. Plus, there's the embodiment of Mercy, who "was a concept.../ No, I was a little girl." Hovering above them all is Notley herself, whose memory and imagination blend together: "I couldn't stop being Marie—/ or Eve Love—even in Paris" (where Notley lives). Marie and her cohort are embodiments of Notley's definition of culture, which this book and Notley's life serve to illustrate again and again: "What does culture come from? It comes from the materials you do it with." (Apr.)
Library Journal
With stunning metaphors, intriguing wordplay, and an engaging though confusing story line, Notley's latest collection ostensibly concerns Marie, who resides in the town dump. But as Griffin and Lenore Marshall prize winner Notley writes in the poem "The Book of Lies," none of this is true—what these poems say is not what they mean. Marie and the other characters live in the narrator's psyche and are extensions of her present and future selves, as described in "The Doodad Affair." Or, as in "Squint," "I couldn't stop being Marie, or Eve Love—even in Paris. I couldn't stop being Mercy or Leroy." Ultimately, even though this is a collection of innovative, shape-shifting language poems, they don't seem like poems at all. They seem like the schizophrenic musings among several characters with an I-narrator often breaking in—which adds a dose of the real or the surreal depending on your perspective. VERDICT If this is art, it insists on its own terms and can be appreciated only by readers who accept them.—Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143118930
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/29/2011
  • Series: Poets, Penguin Series
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 1,441,945
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Alice Notley is a poet whose twenty previous titles include The Descent of Alette, Beginning with a Stain, Homer's Art, and Selected Poems. She wrote the introduction for her late first husband Ted Berrigan's Selected Poems. She lives in Paris.

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