Marilyn Hacker is the recipient of the National Book Award, the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, the Robert Fagles Translation Prize, and the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. Her collection Winter Numbers received a Lambda Literary Award and the Lenore Marshall Award of the Academy of American Poets. She lives in Paris, France.
Desesperanto: Poems 1999-2002by Marilyn Hacker
Marilyn Hacker's voice is unique in its intelligence, urbanity, its deployment of an elegiac humor, its weaving of literary sources into the fabric and vocabulary of ordinary life, its archaeology of memory. Desesperanto refines the themes of
One of our strongest poets of conscience confronts the dangerous new century with intelligence, urbanity, and elegiac humor.
Marilyn Hacker's voice is unique in its intelligence, urbanity, its deployment of an elegiac humor, its weaving of literary sources into the fabric and vocabulary of ordinary life, its archaeology of memory. Desesperanto refines the themes of loss, exile, and return that have consistently informed her work. The title itself is a wordplay combining the Spanish word esperanto, signifying "hope," and the French desespoir, meaning "to lose heart." Des-esperanto, then, is a universal language of despair despair of the possibility of a universal language. As always in Hacker's poetry, prosodic measure is a catalyst for profound feeling and accurate thought, and she employs it with a wit and brio that at once stem from and counteract despair. Guillaume Apollinaire, June Jordan, and Joseph Roth are among this book's tutelary spirits, to whom the poet pays homage as she confronts a new, dangerous century.
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I¿m glad there are some blank pages in the back of this book because it gives me a place to jot notes. What¿s happened around this book since it¿s publication¿silence¿(i.e. so few reviews) is part and partial/symptomatic of what the poet decries in her first poem¿a prologue to the rest of the book¿as the ¿abandoned dissident discourse¿ brought on by ¿leaden words like `Homeland.¿¿ Are reviewers too lazy, too busy, too afraid to take on the challenges a book like this puts forth? This book asks that we do our homework or that we be as well read, as engaged in the real world of current and past politics and policies as the author is. The book calls for each reader to write his/her own reader¿s guide (much as Hacker¿s earlier poem ¿Ballad of Ladies Lost and Found¿ demanded: ¿Make your own footnotes; it will do you good.¿) Hacker¿s aim, in part, is to make us aware of the people, the public people, who populate her text, people such as June Jordon, Muriel Rukeyser, Audre Lorde, Neruda, Venus Khoury-Ghata, Hayden Carruth, all of them politically engaged poets who considered themselves charged, as poets, with the duty to speak out against the ills of the world around them. As Hacker does. Poetry is for an elite few! Poof! This poetry is available to anyone who takes the time to read it¿to shut off CNN, ¿Friends¿ and FOX News and delight in the sounds that cascade and roll over us and give us what the best poetry has forever: delight to the ear because of its musical/verbal genius, its use of assonance, consonance, rhyme of every kind, alliteration. The poems deliver the kind of pleasure successfully completing a jigsaw puzzle does and at the same time hit home with their portrayal of human experiences that most of us have lived through: the loss of a loved one to cancer, the experience of being jilted by a lover, the fear of death, the fear of life as we know it today in the ¿homeland.¿ Read it and think. Read it and look up the proper names. Read it and weep. Read it and carry on.
Marilyn Hacker¿s book of poetry Desesperanto is filled with poems that carry with it the theme of loss with hope. The title of this book is unique because it combines a play on the French word ¿desepoir¿ meaning to lose heart. Hacker writes poems with language strong enough to really move readers. She reflects on the life of her friends, June Jordan, in ¿Elegy for a Soldier,¿ and Muriel Rukeyser in ¿Crepuscule with Muriel¿. Hacker uses imagery that really paints a picture for her readers and puts us in a place like Harlem or even in a classroom as a frustrated teacher. She lets us into her grief and her life through her words. I think Hacker is trying to tell us to live our lives noticing the things that go on around us, to ask questions, as well as explore new things, like the French language. Hacker¿s use of French is interesting in that it adds a new dimension to poetry. I think I would have liked it more if there was a way to find out what the French words meant easily. However, when hearing the French words it really shows the poem¿s true meaning. Overall I really liked ¿Desesperanto.¿ The diction, imagery, and rhyme really made me want to write better poetry and moved me to want to write about my experiences in life, to know with desperation comes hope, which Hacker eloquently describes.
Marilyn Hacker is powerful woman writer with an amazing gift. Her talent is unique. Her brilliant craft really shines through in this book. Every reader can relate to the issues disscused through out the book of poems. Hacker's use of diction is admirable. My favorite poem I have to say is English 182. I never read any of Hacker's work until I read Desesperanto in my Intro to Poetry course. I recommend this book to anyone with a passion for poetry. If one is not familar with the French culture, that is a true part of Hacker, than they may have some difficulty reading this book. I found the balance of American and French culture intriguing. I learned many new things while reading her poems. This is a book you can read over and over and still gain new insights on the same material read. Hacker's wisdom of life and loss are captured in the lines of Desesperanto. Her voice accompanied with beautiful imagery which stimulates the mind.
The emotional urgency, complexity and freshness of Marilyn Hacker's poems in her most recent collection DESESPERANTO (2003), work seamlessly and forcefully with their formal mastery and prosodic inventiveness. The originality of her rhyme and the pressure she places on her meter reinvigorate fixed forms to create a unique counterpoint with her poems' emotional power and the daring of their subject matter. The result is work that is always poignant, reflective, energetic and generous in its good-natured and unfaltering humanity by one of America's most important poets of social conscience, of the body and the body politic. This poetry allows us to enter the tonal range of the poet¿s griefs, joys and her meditative quandaries into the nature of these so that we may learn from her how we might have the courage to enter our own. Hacker, as always, opens new doors widely, showing us that to be socially engaged and personal, erudite and playful, intellectual and raw, a witness to the largest issues of our time and an incisive observer of the daily, passionate and inclusively human, while reworking form to make it her own, give rise to poetry that is among the most potent and necessary being written in English today. In her 'Elegy to a Soldier,' a sequence dedicated to the memory of poet/writer/scholar/activist June Jordan, Hacker weaves together the everyday details of a life intensely lived along with her own and Jordan's deeply metaphysical and political consciousness. The rawness of real life is savored and celebrated while also seen into and connected with a vision that burns through surfaces. Hacker writes, 'Now your death, as if it were 'yours': your house, your / dog, your friends, your son, your serial lovers. / Death's not 'yours,' what's yours are a thousand poems / alive on paper...' Marilyn Hacker's work is a guidebook that leads us into and through ourselves, singing to us with prayerful attention that we must live as fully as possible each day of our lives no matter what, that the acceptance and melding of hope and despair together, create a light that illuminates what is needed for a just world of endless possibility.