The Empty Bed

The Empty Bed

by Rachel Hadas
     
 

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Rachel Hadas's new book takes an unflinching look at the loss of friends to AIDS and cancer, and commemorates the despair and rage of those left to grieve for the dead.

Overview

Rachel Hadas's new book takes an unflinching look at the loss of friends to AIDS and cancer, and commemorates the despair and rage of those left to grieve for the dead.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Influenced by the Greek poets she has translated, Hadas has become one of our most elegiac poets. Her first book (Starting from Troy, 1974) revolves around her father's death; Mirrors of Astonishment (1992) overflowed with elegies for participants in her AIDS workshop. This new volume combines elegies for recently deceased students with poems on her mother's passing: ``cradle you in my arms, my friend, my mother,/ and read you stories of children/ walking unattended through dark woods.'' The frequent use of vague imagery makes it difficult to picture those whom she eulogizes, but this lack of specificity also permits the poems to be applied to the wider culture. While her insistence on form can be obtrusive, Hadas gives away her secrets in lines written after a student's late night call: ``the burning question/ proved to be technique,/ haiku or sonnet,/ whatever formal framework could encompass/ the crucial axioms you were working out....'' (May)
Library Journal
After straining to cross the "numb abyss" between life and death, Hadas (scholar-critic, translator, and professor of English at Rutgers) relates that the "limits" of mortality ("The Years that press us down/carve sullen masks of age") are best understood by someone who has stared them in the face. She grapples with "moments lost" for the exact words to chronicle the passing of her mother and friends who died before their time. Graceful ceremony and "creaky hinges of the heart" keep people ("separate, doomed, and dumb") from being pulled apart by the "bleak debris of cancelled things." With crafted solemnity (many poems use formal rhyme), Hadas combines Romanlike stoicism with a dislike of emotional equivocation. Death, she argues, is not the end of the "short time we're let to live," and grief inaugurates an enlargement of human spirit. Despite the "pristine dominion of the dead," the elegies here are about awakenings: "Winter's secret melts. I am restored./Hard spring light pours down without a word/into the pure, the newly naked eye." For most poetry collections.Frank Allen, West Virginia State Coll., Institute

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780819512253
Publisher:
Wesleyan University Press
Publication date:
05/05/1995
Series:
Wesleyan Poetry Series
Pages:
93
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.33(d)

Read an Excerpt

If all the pain could be spun out to song
calm as the breathing of a child asleep,
the long savannahs of desire, despair
caught in the slumberer's damp hair,

I would sustain these pressures with a hand
held up as to ward off
the entrances, the echoes,
the enemies of quiet in the house.

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