Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2005 / Edition 1

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Considered by many to be among the most outstanding of living American poets, Alice Notley has amassed a body of work that includes intimate lyrics, experimental diaries, traditional genres, the postmodern series, the newly invented epic, political observation and invective, and the poem as novel. This chronological selection of her most notable work offers a delineation of her life and creative development. Formerly associated with the second generation of the New York School, Notley has become a poet with a completely distinctive voice. Grave of Light is a progression of changing forms and styles—an extensive panorama held together explicitly by the shape of the poet’s times. Notley’s poems challenge their subjects head-on, suffusing language with radiant truth.

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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
This fat book, mostly drawn from numerous small-press and chapbook publications, describes a poetic career of restless experimentation, self-invention, and subversion. An Iowa Writers’ Workshop poet by way of the Mojave town of Needles, California, Notley, with her first husband, Ted Berrigan, belonged to the second wave of the New York School. Her work displays a lucid sense of humor and a debt to William Carlos Williams. “I Hope I’m Not Here Next Year,” from 1970, begins: “I’ll say / the one nice thing about that apartment / was how my desk was / Desk? / Shit it was an orange crate / But right in front of a window / in a stream of / dazzling 3 o’clock light.” She is also a troublemaker, sporadic with syntax, and associatively loose. At one point, she inquires, “Is there a right and wrong poetry, one might / still ask.”
Publishers Weekly
Over the last quarter-century, Notley has crafted an increasingly important body of work that mixes unabashed lyric beauty with jerky snippets from a capacious mind. Her books, however, have been haphazardly and often obscurely published by both small and major house; this collection brings together, for the first time, poems from all points in Notley's career, making available many pieces that have long been impossible to find. Beginning as a poet of the second generation of the New York School, Notley (who was married to the late Ted Berrigan, and, with their two sons, recently edited his Collected Poems) developed a mostly autobiographical, stream-of-consciousness style. Her meditations and sequences take an array of forms and modes, including collages of her children's voices ("These are my silver mittens Mommy"), short lyrics recalling famous figures ("The late Gracie Allen was a very lucid comedienne"), as well as absurdist poetic diaries and letters ("P.S. My own temperature is a perpetual 101 degrees"). More recent poems that come to terms with her marriage to Berrigan are among her best: "`You haven't wanted to talk to me since I died,' he says." While somewhat idiosyncratically organized, this is an essential book. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Always innovative and occasionally maudlin, the poems in Notley's latest book play haphazardly with figures of sound and speech. Showing the influences of ee cummings and William Carlos Williams ("So Much," for instance, is Williams minus the brilliant imagery), these free-verse poems are written as letters, postcards, and prose-paragraphs. Many use quotation marks instead of periods and commas; others rely on the line break to suggest meanings, which may or may not be present. In one of the most evocative and representative poems here, "Choosing Styles-1972" (from Mysteries of Small Houses, a Pulitzer Prize finalist), Notley suggests both the metaphorical and the emotional territory of her work. As she muses on the process of her poetry-"who wants to write in old long lines clearly and not be/ slightly more inscrutable/ askance in freakier/ lines, in brilliance/ outflame/ blaze; flash-?"-she arrives at her subject: death. Although the ending evokes an uneasy resonance with ee cummings ("Buffalo Bill"), it also shows Notley's talent for finishing a poem as opposed to merely stopping it. Suggested for larger libraries.-Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“Notley developed her own ways of treating feminist thought, high and popular culture, and personal themes. This collection restores to print much of the unavailable work of this underground hero.”—Publishers Weekly, Best Books of 2006

“The inexhaustible reach and ceaseless invention of Notley's vision make Grave of Light a thrilling testament to her greatest poetic gift: an unwavering faith in poetry's power to change the real.”—Brian Teare, Boston Journal

"This monumental book features selected work by Alice Notley, one of America's most enduring poets. Notley has strengthened and redefined alternative forms to traditional modes of writing. Her poetry is autobiographical but her linguistic and experimental skills carpet the personal with a timeless vision that transforms the deaths of family and loved ones into poetic dimensions of grief and startling revelation. Over the decades, Notley has built a rich body of work that cannot be categorized or contained in a complex poetic community. Her poems sing of commitment and the daring steps it takes to move away from the predetermined forms toward a level of discourse that fills fresh pages with nobility and courage."—The Bloomsbury Review

“Her work displays a lucid sense of humor and a debt to William Carlos Williams.” —The New Yorker

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819567727
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 9/18/2006
  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 388
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

ALICE NOTLEY has published more than twenty collections of poems. Her Mysteries of Small Houses (1998) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She has received the Griffin Poetry Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Award for poetry, and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Paris.

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Table of Contents

"2/? Saturday" 1
Friday midnight exactly 2
Cold poem 3
I hope I'm not here next year 4
From 165 meeting house lane : 1 5
From 165 meeting house lane : 4 5
From 165 meeting house lane : 15 6
From 165 meeting house lane : 22 7
Dear dark continent 8
Incidentals in the day world 9
Your dailiness 19
But he says I misunderstood 24
From songs for the unborn second baby : from I 26
"Alice ordered me to be made" 33
The virtue of uncreatedness 37
Endless day 39
30th birthday 42
January 44
How spring comes 52
Little Egypt 57
Sonnet 60
A California girlhood 60
Poem ("St. Mark's place caught at night in hot summer") 63
When I was alive 64
After Tsang Chih 65
Today 65
You 66
The goddess who created this passing world 67
Untitled 68
"If she says that she's the goddess fortune" 68
The world, all that live & all that occur 69
Bus stop 70
Jack would speak through the imperfect medium of Alice 71
The locket 73
September's book 75
A true account of talking to Judy Holiday, October 13 91
Poem ("you hear that heroic big land music?") 93
The prophet 94
Desert for all of music to take place 106
Untitled ("clouds, big ones oh it's") 114
Flowers of the foothills & mountain valleys 114
World's bliss 115
Waltzing Matilda 116
Untitled ("all my life") 135
Postcards 135
White evening primrose 140
Memorial day 140
Margaret and dusty 141
La Mort 142
Congratulating wedge 142
The ten best issues of comic books 148
So much 149
Poem ("why do I want to tell it") 150
Love 151
It would 151
Weekend weather 152
At night the states 153
"Corpus Sagrada" 163
"In this paradise" 164
I the people 171
"In the dark I" 173
"More important than having been born is your city" 173
"Beginning with a stain, as the universe did perhaps" 174
"I will never not make a sound not have made a sound" 175
"Some people refuse to remember, & I" 176
"Against all agony a bunch of flowers in the chest" 178
"Born in beauty born a loved one, before history" 178
"They say something ruinous & tragic happened soon after" 179
"Speaking firstly forever" 181
'You haven't saved me any time' 184
'What does she think?' 185
Homer's art 186
Mother mask 186
White phosphorus 190
"One day, I awoke" "& found myself on" 199
"There was a woman" "in a station" 199
"We couldn't find" "our fathers - " 200
"A mother" "& child" 201
"'When I was born," "I was born now" 202
"I once" "found an exit" 203
"A car" "awash with blood" 204
"I stood again" "on the platform" 205
"'It's time to go,' he said" "'go where?'" 206
"As I stared down" "into the black lake" 206
"The horizontal" "black void" 206
"Talons tore me," "tore my flesh" 208
"When I awoke I" "was in darkness" 209
"'We will be silent" "& wait'" 211
"I looked into the light" "directly" 211
"I have to ... talk to you. I have to tell you ..." 213
"I sit mute nothing mutely" 213
"They gave me, it seemed to me, an initiation" 214
"Why do we make" 215
"When I say to you - I, almost, transfer a shape" 216
"In eternity there is no story" 217
"I'm ... interested in, what of me there is ... here" 218
"I'm going to tell you ... a story" 219
"I don't have to" 219
"'I dream,' says dead desert Desnos" 222
"'See this piece of amber?' Amere says to brother" 224
"Desnos says, 'I dream I don't die" 225
[From desert poems] : I 227
[From desert poems] : II 229
[From desert poems] : III 230
Would want to be in my wildlife 232
One of the longest times 233
As good as anything 234
Choosing styles - 1972 237
I must have called and so he comes 239
The trouble with you girls 240
Hematite Heirloom lives on (maybe December 1980) 242
Mid-80's 244
Sept 17/Aug 29, '88 248
1992 251
Lady poverty 253
Circorpse 255
Help me corpus sagrada 259
The islanders remember that there are no women and no men 263
Red fish 266
Enuma Elish 270
Amid these words I can know 275
Parable of Christian 276
Moses and the burning bush 280
Jone Jonah 283
Leaves 286
Grave of light 289
Where leftover misery goes 292
City 296
Love 302
Iphigenia 309
Radical feminist 317
Beloved Earth restrain them 318
Discredited 319
Oath 322
And who is crying 324
Cherokee 326
Decomposition 327
Ballad 330
From in the pines : 14 332
"There was power in that room : I saw" 337
"The ghoul-girl : there was one to care for" 337
"What she reports against you isn't" 338
"The city I founded I will found again" 339
"What were you doing when I thought you were dead" 339
"If you meet me here I was lady" 340
"Walking away turns to look over shoulder" 341
"Black sequins compression" 342
"I stand here in whose eyes" 342
"Woman with antlers, deer-headed antlered woman" 343
"If there's change you put it into this sculpture's slot" 344
"Justice may appear in the" 345
"No world is intact" 347
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