The Descent of Alette

The Descent of Alette

by Alice Notley

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Often considered a second-generation New York School poet, Notley (Closer to Me and Closer...) offers a vividly imagined book-length poem. The work reads like a postmodern, mytho-feminist combination of Dante's Inferno and the Old English Beowulf-from Grendel's point of view, in which the explorer/warrior is female and the monster/devil an evil, charming, sophisticated man called "the tyrant." The narrator, Alette, descends into a surreal, subterranean landscape, which is highly charged with metaphysical and sexual symbolism-a grotesque subway system, a series of caves and a darkened forest inhabited by "the snake" (a Mother Goddess-like symbol of feminine spiritual energy). She discovers the purpose of her journey is to kill the tyrant, who once nearly succeeded in destroying the snake. Throughout, lines are segmented into phrases with quotation marks, lending a hypnotic rhythm and spoken-word atmosphere, as the book's opening lines suggest: "one day, I awoke" "& found myself on" "a subway, endlessly."/ "I didn't know" "how I'd arrived there or" "who I was" "exactly." Notley's raw sensual language and imagery ("fetal flesh," "flower skin") imbue the transformation of landscape and Alette's own body (she becomes, at one point, part owl) with a startling psychological resonance. (Apr.) FYI: Notley, who now lives in Paris, was once married to the late Ted Berrigan.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Poets, Penguin Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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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