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Alice Notley has earned a reputation as one of the most challenging and engaging radical female poets at work today. Her last collection, Mysteries of Small Houses, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize in poetry and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Structured as a long series of interconnected poems in which one of the main elements is an ongoing dialogue with a seedy detective, Disobedience sets out to explore the visible as well as the unconscious. These poems, composed during a fifteen-month period, ...

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Alice Notley has earned a reputation as one of the most challenging and engaging radical female poets at work today. Her last collection, Mysteries of Small Houses, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize in poetry and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Structured as a long series of interconnected poems in which one of the main elements is an ongoing dialogue with a seedy detective, Disobedience sets out to explore the visible as well as the unconscious. These poems, composed during a fifteen-month period, also deal with being a woman in France, with turning fifty, and with being a poet, and thus seemingly despised or at least ignored.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After many years as an independently published poet, Notley did two stellar books with Penguin in the '90s: the 1996 long-poem, Descent of Alette, and 1998's Pulitzer runner-up, Mysteries of Small Houses, recounting, among other things, Notley's marriage to the late poet Ted Berrigan. This huge third Penguin volume from Notley outshines its predecessors, a tall order indeed. Like Alette, Disobedience is a long, serial, subterranean journey, taking on the search for spiritual life in a corporatized society and anger at persistent male dominance. Along the way, it crosses the worlds of the living and the dead, the real and the imaginary, the particular and the symbolic, vacating everyday life of its assigned non-meanings and granting them wild, personal resonances: "I don't want to create meaning;/ I want to kill it / You made meaning; I'm/ trying to make life stand still,/ long enough so I can exist./ I, truly, am speaking." Many fictional elements crop up, such as a character who is variably named Hardwood, Hardware, Hardon or Mitch-ham (after the actor Robert Mitchum), moving in and out of focus as the stream of thought determines. Hardwood, who at times appears to be a stand-in for Notley's late second husband, the poet Douglas Oliver, seems at others to be an interior persona, the "hard," even male, aspect of her own psyche that she uses to power her defenses against the world. The naturalness of Notley's idiom, the distinctive and uncompromising perspective of her thought, the almost Rimbaudian zeal to break free of convention, the sense that she is, after all, very vulnerable in her struggle all these contradictory elements fire Notley along a comet's path of spiritual discontent.This book traces its arc beautifully. (Oct.) Forecast: A near-miss last time around, Notley should garner at least one major prize nomination for this accessible, fast-moving epic. Magazine items will focus on Notley's two poetic marriages, but young protesters will find this book a contemplative inspiration, while Notley's peers will recognize the hard-won knowledge of a long spiritual search. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
By age 50, many established poets begin settling into a contemplative conservatism, both in style and substance. But Notley, a 1998 Pulitzer nominee, still has cultural axes to grind. Disobedience, a dense, poetic journal/dream diary written in Paris during the mid-1990s, ripples with outrage, sarcasm, and hard-boiled self-examination. Her explicit targets are often greed, racisim, and sexism ("Men want the cave in place and me in place..."), but her most insidious enemy is acquiescence to societal expectations, to the past, and to compromised conceptions of the self. The poet's anger affords an avenue by which her personal identity may be reclaimed from these oppressive forces: "So start, myself, start, where./ Before anyone invented me." Each poem is a lengthy, subdivided cascade of observations, reactions, and visions "Can you see that something inside/ keeps calling one home/ through dreams" that stops just short of free-association. Though rambling in appearance, this is a focused, acutely aware record of consciousness: ornery and off-putting, yes, but fascinating and inventive, too. It's the product of a mature poet who refuses to take either herself or her world for granted. Highly recommended. Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780141002293
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Series: Poets, Penguin Series
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,348,635
  • Product dimensions: 6.07 (w) x 9.01 (h) x 0.80 (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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Table of Contents

Disobedience A Scarf of Bitter Water (July 30-October 6,1995)
Change the Forms in Dreams
What's Suppressed
Sun Is Very Near Hot and Buttockslike
I Suppose This Is All a Lefthand Path
Where Is the Babylonian Meter with Its Lovely Caesura?
Help Me Corpus Sagrada
The Islanders Remember That There Are No Women and No Men
Red Fish
Enuma Elish
The Forest/Swamp/Gorge/Alp Hotel
Lana Turner at Versailles
". . . I Thought She Was Going to Be a Ghost Story"
Just Under Skin of Left Leg
"Have Made Earth as the Mirror of Heaven"
Left Side Liberation from E

The Strike (October 7-December 18, 1995)
Dante's Ass a Noble Prize
Particle Doll
There Isn't Much to Do If You Aren't Geology
And Still No Story, How Will You Know When It's Over?
More of the Assholes of Giants
Rita, a Red Rose, Hates Her Clothes
An Impeccable Sexism I Mean an Elegant Idea or Procedure Haunts the Stars
Breaking the Sound Barrier
The Morbid Managers Are Serving Trays of Charnel Flesh
The Big Slip on the Dead Woman Is Pink
Dancing into the Shadows of the Hideous Future City We Don't Think So During This Strike
White Rice Words Are the Means of Exchange
Seems to Be Heading for Mexico
Being with People a Cliche Eating Dinner
In the Motherless, Homogenized and E-Epistolary

Shit, Fire, and Crystal (December 19, 1995-March 9, 1996)
Breaking an Unsound Barrier . . .
The Veil Is, Like, Sexism or Is It Like It
Being Wiggy
Exposing My Breasts So You'll
In That Room, In That Time, But Later
You Cover All the Windows with Your Manuscript Pages
Will Die and Die in So Many Ways, as Professional and Cultural Entity
Do I Have to Be Mad Now Later and Always
Lost the Plumbing Lost My Story Good
Oh Put Some Obscenely Concrete Nouns Back in Your Poems
Healthy and Foolish the Mainstream Stars of Kneejerk Joy and Despair May Win the Future
It's Dumb to Be a Member of a Dominant Species
People Could Live in This Town, They Don't But I'm Going To
My Hair Is Terribly Dirty and the Dress Looks Drab
Meet Me at La Chapelle for Some More Salami
But My Real Dreams Are Objective (Objects Made of Me by the Secret)
Don't Give Me Drovel, Give Me a Shovel (Popular Poem)
Open-Stomach Woman

Leveling (March 10, 1996-June 17, 1996)
I Know You'll Make Fun of the Clothes the Magi Are Wearing
Crowded into a Breathless Bubble of Bad Thinking Our Poem the World Owned by a Few
Coming Down the Spiral Almanac Staircase
Could I Ever Share a Tableau with Miss January's Murderers?
Echoes the Past Fucks Me Over and Over
In Any Movie Whatsoever, in Order to Be Working Actors
Do You Want to Be Excellent an A Actress No Not That Either
We Should All Live Like Rocks in a Flat Field
Everyone's out After Some Emotional Action
Seen the Whale-Skate and Seen a Tomb
Keep Going Down to the Tomb
Not That Person Anymore, Mitch Being Ever Fainter

Four Scarves and a Lion (June 18, 1996-August 28, 1996)
Have I Been Here Before Is Something Unfamiliar
There Was Also Valium in the Drink, Placed There by Two Other People
I Don't Have Sympathy We're Equals
Pouring Rain No Love from the Weather Except in My Dream
Roaring Being a Given, My Roaring's a Given
The Lines Fall Away Sometimes
The Subterranean Senses Are Already There in New Air
Remember the Station with No Name
Further Figuration of My Regressive Backash
Don't Think That Thought It Will Poison This Moment
The Longest Vampiric History Vs. the Soul
Please Don't Anyone Save My Life Passim
A New Hairdo
The Chaplet on the Donkey's Head: Both Keep Dissolving
The One Thousand Arms of Poking and Pinching Love
The Usual and the Most Tenuous of Goodbyes

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