Dark Familiar: Poems

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These are poems for grownups who believe in life and death. They are chastened by the press of the second part of life, and reading these poems is like walking through a museum of priceless artifacts—at night, alone, in silence—our heels echoing down marble corridors. Gradually we come to see that even these language exhibits, these brilliantly made dioramas, are fading. We know it. The poet knows it. But the fact that she has made them anyway, against that knowledge, means ...

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Overview

These are poems for grownups who believe in life and death. They are chastened by the press of the second part of life, and reading these poems is like walking through a museum of priceless artifacts—at night, alone, in silence—our heels echoing down marble corridors. Gradually we come to see that even these language exhibits, these brilliantly made dioramas, are fading. We know it. The poet knows it. But the fact that she has made them anyway, against that knowledge, means everything.

Aleda Shirley is the author of two collections of poems, Chinese Architecture and Long Distance. She lives in Jackson, Mississippi.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Shirley's third book-her first in the decade since Long Distance (1996)-fuses the everyday and the otherworldly with mystifying precision. Haunted by dead friends and lost lovers, the speakers of these 28 neatly cast poems seek to grieve and make myths of the past in the vain hope of filling the spaces loss has left: "It didn't occur/ to me the emptiness would be permanent." Straightforward language tinged with surprising words ("...the view from our room of a meadow,/ dazzling & lacustral") and obsessively intense observations of nature ("...rhododendron leaves rattle their shredded gold") lends the poems a mournful, trancelike music. References to ancient Greek mythology provide stunning figures for the contemporary world: "...no one warned me about the countless/ tributaries of the Styx that skein through a life." What little hope there is derives from what small measures of control these speakers can exercise: "Bequeathed nothing by you,/ I must again begin saving or live less dearly." While the continual resifting of this material does reveal the secrets to some of its magic, Shirley has nonetheless crafted a powerful return to poetry. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A quick glance at the table of contents points to Shirley (Long Distance) as a writer with a painter's eye for color, shade, and detail. But her titles only hint at her tremendous skill with imagery. In an early poem, she juxtaposes April 15, taxes, and the anniversary of Henry James's death. Such antics might seem reminiscent of the surrealists' description of art as "a chance encounter between an umbrella and a sewing machine on an operating table," but unlike the surrealists, Shirley creates poems that are down to earth, her associations at once jarring and rational. However deeply the poems delve into relationships, secrets, and betrayals, everything seems presented at face value, with no undue emotions clouding the words. Many poems are concerned with death but depict the human intertwined with nature and carrying its own sense of renewal (the dead and the living easily change places: "after I dream of you I can spend all day planning/ how to respond the next time we speak"). Shirley uses craft and consistency, usually working in tight, three-line stanzas, to act as a container for disparate images. The result is recommended for all comprehensive poetry collections.-Rochelle Ratner, formerly with Soho Weekly News, New York Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932511369
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books
  • Publication date: 5/1/2006
  • Pages: 88
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Aleda Shirley is the author of two collections of poems, Chinese Architecture (University of Georgia Press, 1986) and Long Distance (University of Miami Press, 1996), which received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. She lives in Jackson, Mississippi.

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Table of Contents

The star's Etruscan argument 3
Brown, black on maroon 5
Blue poles 7
Phantom pain 9
Blue over orange 11
April fifteenth 14
The minor of what we felt 16
Plaint 18
Song of the abducted 20
The customary mysteries 22
Wisdom 27
Convergence : number 10, 1952 30
Tempo Rubato 33
The deep 35
Fin de Siecle 38
Three blacks in dark blue 40
Moving violation 43
Purple, white and red 45
The yellow point 47
Forever is deciduous 49
The Asphodel fields 53
Four darks in red 55
Spliced solo 57
In the cathedral 59
Contes 61
The disintegration of afternoon 63
Counter love 65
White center 67
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