Domain of Perfect Affection / Edition 1

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In Domain of Perfect Affection, Robin Becker explores the conditions under which we experience and resist pleasure: in beauty salon, summer camp, beach, backyard, or museum; New York or New Mexico. “The Mosaic injunction against / the graven image” inspires meditations on drawings by Dürer, Evans, Klee, Marin, and del Sarto. To the consolations of art and human intimacy, Becker brings playfulness—“Worry stole the kayaks and soured the milk”—suffused with self-knowledge: “Worry wraps her long legs / around me, promises to be mine forever.” In “The New Egypt,” the narrator mines her family’s legacy: “From my father I learned the dignity / of exile and the fire of acquisition, / not to live in places lightly, but to plant / the self like an orange tree in the desert.” Becker’s shapely stanzas—couplets, tercets, quatrains, pantoum, sonnet, syllabics—subvert her colloquial diction, creating a seamless merging of subject and form. Luminous, sensual, these poems offer sharp pleasures as they argue, elegize, mourn, praise, and sing.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Becker builds solid, well-crafted poems out of everyday materials, therby capturing life as it is lived. For readers who like poetry that ‘honors the poached fish and the beans,/...our communal selves sheared of the theoretical,' this honest, plain-spoken collection is just the thing."
Library Journal

“Robin Becker achieves what may be one of the early twenty first century’s most difficult accomplishments—to write a credible poetry of affirmation. In the doing, she doesn’t pretty up the world. Rather, she finds language that embraces our dualities, our many-selved presences, regularly demonstrating her kind of perfect affection: ‘Come up for the lunch I made you, / O handy lover, with your retractable blade, / your small drill, your paint brushes bristling.’”
—Stephen Dunn

". . .  firmly about the business of living, about the information one must collect and process both to live from day to day and to instigate change. She creates calm and then upsets it, a stunning achievment for any poet."
Feminist Review

“Stunning: it reveals a poet whose age and experience have mellowed her subject and tighened her craft, but never diminshed her intensity of both attention to detail and affirmation of the dark compassion it takes to ‘accept myself / for what I am—androgynous, sublime.’ Becker’s poetry is always reaching toward the unsayable, demonstrating her deft abilities to write poetry that bears forth generous and ‘homely affection.’”
The Virginia Quarterly

“The sixth full-length [collection] from the still-underrated Becker (The Horse Fair, 2000) uses sustained attention and deceptively quiet language to delve skillfully into Jewish heritage, lesbian culture, generational succession, and the ambivalent legacy of the Sixties. Describing her path from a radical youth to middle age, Becker's verse remains careful and clear, much like Philip Levine's in its sense of how poems ought to work (and Becker is at least as good a technician).  Her free verse lines can grow pleasantly prickly, or even grim: "Against Pleasure" warns beachgoers about ‘jellyfish for the rest of the summer/ and the ozone layer full of holes.’ Celebrations of amity and of erotic love counterpoint such sad reminders: a poem about a grand flood projects ‘a waterproof optimism, hoping to run into a few friends/ who'd taken the rain into their own hands and gone pelagic.’”
Publishers Weekly


Library Journal
"Worry calcifies/ my ears against music," confides Becker (Giacometti's Dog) in a poem called "Against Pleasure," and throughout her latest work she acknowledges that life dishes out pain and joy in equal measure; it's our job to sort them out. Early poems in the collection find Becker wrestling with "the Mosaic injunction against/ graven image" in a culture saturated with the Christian vision and striking out at how Manifest Destiny destroyed Native American lives. Later she evokes "The Architect of Happiness," celebrates the art of William Steeple Davis, and carpenters a poem for a deceased friend "who loves poems about ordinary things./ For her, I'll keep my abstractions/ to a minimum." Indeed, this poem evokes less the art of carpentry than the thing built-a lake cabin and its associated memories-and throughout Becker builds solid, well-crafted poems out of everyday materials, thereby capturing life as it is lived. For readers who like poetry that "honors the poached fish and the beans,/ our communal selves sheared of the theoretical," this honest, plain-spoken collection is just the thing.-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822959311
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2006
  • Series: Pitt Poetry Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 88
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Robin Becker, professor of English and women’s studies at The Pennsylvania State University, is the author of six collections of poetry, including The Horse Fair, All-American Girl, and Giacometti’s Dog. In 2002, the Frick Art and Historical Center in Pittsburgh published Venetian Blue, a limited-edition chapbook of Becker’s art poems. Becker is the recipient of individual fellowships from the Bunting Institute, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2000, she won the George W. Atherton III Award for Excellence in Teaching from Penn State. For the Women's Review of Books, Becker writes a column on poetry called “Field Notes” and serves as poetry editor.

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Table of Contents

The new Egypt 3
Holy card 4
Intersex 6
The Poconos 7
Manifest destinies 9
August 11
Man of the year 12
Against pleasure 15
A pasture of my palm 16
Sound view 17
Salon 18
Lament of the mangle 20
The drawer 22
The dome fire 24
The architect of happiness 26
After the snowstorm, the bay 28
Borderline 29
Angel supporting St. Sebastian 33
Soot and spit 34
Qualities boys like best in girls 35
Simple dark 37
Orienteer : the childhood drawings of William Steeple Davis, 1884-1961 39
Subject/matter 42
The miniaturists 43
Great sleeps I have known 45
Summer's tale 47
The dogs of Santorini 48
Head of an old man 50
Description 51
Rain 55
Mah-Jongg fantasia 56
Mail order 58
Now 59
Old dog 60
Island of daily life 61
Head of an angel 63
Cohort 64
The outside agitator 65
Autumn measure 66
Lodging 67
Late butch-femme 68
Birds of prey 69
OK, Tucker 71
On friendship 72
With two camels and one donkey 73
The wild heart 74
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