The Descent of Alette

Overview

In "The Descent of Alette," Alice Notley presents a feminist epic, a bold journey into the deeper realms. Alette, the narrator, finds herself underground, deep beneath the city, where spirits and people ride endlessly on subways, not allowed to live in the world above. Traveling deeper and deeper, she is on a journey of continual transformation, encountering a series of figures and undergoing fragmentations and metamorphoses as she seeks to confront the Tyrant and heal the world. Using a new measure, with ...
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The Descent of Alette

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Overview

In "The Descent of Alette," Alice Notley presents a feminist epic, a bold journey into the deeper realms. Alette, the narrator, finds herself underground, deep beneath the city, where spirits and people ride endlessly on subways, not allowed to live in the world above. Traveling deeper and deeper, she is on a journey of continual transformation, encountering a series of figures and undergoing fragmentations and metamorphoses as she seeks to confront the Tyrant and heal the world. Using a new measure, with rhythmic units indicated by quotation marks, Notley has created a "spoken" text, a rich and mesmerizing work of imagination, mystery, and power.
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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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140587647
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/1/1996
  • Series: Penguin Poets Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 787,840
  • Product dimensions: 6.24 (w) x 9.12 (h) x 0.45 (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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