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by Marie Ponsot

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"Leave it to the graceful Marie Ponsot, now in her late eighties, to view her life in poetry as easeful. As she tells us, pondering what stones can hear, "Between silence and sound / we are balancing darkness, / making light of it." In this celebratory collection, Ponsot makes light, in both senses, of all she touches, and her pleasure in offering these late poems

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"Leave it to the graceful Marie Ponsot, now in her late eighties, to view her life in poetry as easeful. As she tells us, pondering what stones can hear, "Between silence and sound / we are balancing darkness, / making light of it." In this celebratory collection, Ponsot makes light, in both senses, of all she touches, and her pleasure in offering these late poems is infectious. After more than a half century at her craft, she describes her poetic preferences unpretentiously thus: "no fruity phrases, just unspun / words trued right toward a nice / idea, for chaser. True's a risk. / Take it I say. Do true for fun." "Ponsot is accepting of what has come, whether it's a joyous memory of her second-grade teacher in a New York public school or the feeling of being "Orphaned Old," less lucky in life since her parents died. She holds herself to the highest standard: to see clearly, to think, to deal openhandedly and openheartedly with the world, to "Go to a wedding / as to a funeral: / bury the loss" and also to "Go to a funeral / as to a wedding: / marry the loss." She confides that she meets works of great art "expectant and thirsty." Indeed, Ponsot's thirst for life and its best expression, for the sprightly phrase and the deeper understanding running beneath, makes this book a transformative experience. The wisdom and music of Easy, like all of Ponsot's poetry, will remain with her readers for decades to come.

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Editorial Reviews

Stephen Burt
Ponsot's best work finds her down-to-earth, either mordant or lighthearted…For all its insistence on exuberance, there is something brittle, like china, about Ponsot's style. Other poets who use, as she does, short lines, a conversational pace and frequent enjambments can feel rushed or wild. Ponsot instead tends to tread slowly, as if careful not to damage the copious beauties she finds on the streets of Manhattan, in its museums, in clouds, in air.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Effortless and stunning in its grace and movement, Ponsot's newest collection follows the prompting of its title, which can be read as personal affirmation or a direction: “simmer down” she imperatively writes, “lay your cards on the linen faceup // causing a music to start.” Many of the poems create connections across distance, whether it's the air in a kitchen evoking “Alhambra years ago,” the cloud barrier separating earth and space, or something even more ephemeral: “Between silence and sound // we are balancing darkness.” Playful humor springs up, as well as departures to childhood or rewritten fables. Yet even at these moments the poems are like “stones, holding each other into a wall.” Old age is an ever-present lens for Ponsot (Springing), who is in her late 80s. “Walking Home from the Museum,” for instance, recalls “radiant saviors... // at ease in their deathlife.” Ponsot is a master poet, still at the height of her powers: “The place of language is the place between me// and the world of presences I have lost” (Oct.)\
Library Journal
In her fifth book of poetry, National Book Critics Circle Award winner Ponsot examines fairy tales, aging, travel, and the blessings of dailiness, as when a boy walks home from a museum. Too often, Ponsot uses language that is vague, proselike, and lacking in music, and some poems never get beyond describing an experience, ending on flat notes, e.g., "no time is lost." In her best poems, though, the words ignite—"For the oak to untruss/ its passion it must explode as fire or leaves"—even as they sometimes challenge readers. There are hard lines in a poem about cows—"Juggling a greening/ to shy at recalcitrant rumps"—that are justified in the end. At her strongest, Ponsot shares her complex worldview with her unique descriptive language: "The clarity of cloud is in its edgelessness." VERDICT Some of these poems are stellar (the nature-themed ones, in particular, transport the reader), but this collection is uneven. Many followers of contemporary poetry will want to investigate this well-regarded writer's work, especially since she does not publish books frequently, but it is not essential reading.—Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN\
From the Publisher
“Few poets are as infectiously joyful to read as Marie Ponsot . . . a woman whose cliché- bashing wit and experience only seem to make her fresh, almost childlike wonderment in the world around her . . . that much more arresting.”


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Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.60(d)

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In a time of dearth bring forth number, weight, & measure.

Describing the wind that drives it, cloud

rides between earth and space. Cloud

shields earth from sun-scorch. Cloud

bursts to cure earth’s thirst. Cloud

—airy, wet, photogenic—

is a bridge or go-between;

it does as it is done by.

It condenses. It evaporates.

It draws seas up, rains down.

I do love the drift of clouds.

Cloud-love is irresistible,

untypical, uninfinite.

Deep above the linear city this morning

the cloud’s soft bulk is almost unmoving.

The winds it rides are thin;

it makes them visible.

As sun hits it or if sun

quits us it’s blown away

or rains itself or snows itself away.

It is indefinite:

This dawns on me: no cloud is measurable.

Make mine cloud.

Make mind cloud.

The clarity of cloud is in its edgelessness,

its each instant of edge involving

in formal invention, always

at liberty, at it, incessantly altering.

A lucky watcher will catch it

as it makes big moves:

up the line of sight it lifts

until it conjugates or


its unidentical being intact

though it admits flyers.

It lets in wings. It lets them go.

It lets them.

It embraces mountains & spires built

to be steadfast; as it goes on

it lets go of them.

It is not willing.

It is not unwilling.

Late at night when my outdoors is

indoors, I picture clouds again:

Come to mind, cloud.

Come to cloud, mind.


Waste-pipe sweat, unchecked, has stained the floor

under the kitchen sink. For twenty years

it’s eased my carelessness into a mean soft place,

its dirty secret dark, in a common place.

Today the pipe’s fixed. Workmen rip up the floor

that’s served and nagged me all these good/bad years.

They cut and set in new boards, to last for years.

House-kept no more, I waltz out of the place

clean-shod and leave no footprint on the floor,

displaced and unfloored. This year, nothing goes to waste.

—seen on CNN, autumn 2005, Afghanistan

It’s a screenful of chaos but

the cameraman’s getting good framing shots

from behind one woman’s back.

The audio’s poor. The shouts are slices of noise.

I don’t know the languages.

No hot hit heroes are there.

No wicked people are there.

Achilles is not there, or Joshua either.

Rachel is not there, nor Sojourner Truth.

Iwo Jima flag boys? not there.

Twin Towers first defenders? not there.

My children are thank God not there

any more or less than you and I are not there.

I safe screen-watch. A youth

young in his uniform

signals his guard squad

twice: OK go, to the tanks

and the cameramen: OK go.

The tank takes the house wall.

The house genuflects. The tank proceeds.

The house kneels. The roof dives.

The woman howls. Dust rises.

They cut to the next shot.

The young men and the woman

breathe the dust of the house

which now is its prayer.

A dust cloud rises, at one

with the prayer of all the kneeling houses

asking to be answered

and answerable anywhere.

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