Growing Darkness, Growing Light

Growing Darkness, Growing Light

by Jean Valentine

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Between her first book of poems, Dream Barker, which was selected by the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 1964, and 1992's The River at Wolf, Valentine has established herself as a commanding poet. "The taste of my own life is good to me," she writes in "New Life," one of the poems that finds the poet in a state of contentment. But in this collection of darkness and light, a peaceful, safe moment can be replaced by horror, as envisioned in this sequence of "Open Heart": "They've made a hole/ in B's chest/ the size of the woodworm holes/ in the sideboard: threaded it/ with black plastic thread:/ their jump-start track to his heart." Her poems, though mostly short, have a wisdom and a resilience to them. Some poems are set in Ireland, and others in "the wet electric New York streets." These poems are marked by moments of brief intensity, as in the first lines from "World-light" ("Do well in the world. If you do well/ we'll throw you away. We'll put you in the state asylum like we did your grandfather." The great Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, some of whose poems Valentine has translated previously, is evoked in two poems, including "Dog Skin Coat," written in memory of the poet Lynda Hull: "Ghost money/ star/ ledger, I'm hanging his yellow coat up here/ on your coffin-door." This newest is one of Valentine's best collections. (Apr.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Valentine's poems aren't lengthy or complex, but if you read them expecting a certain straightforward logic, you will definitely be confused. Her poems are like little drops of pure, unfiltered feelingoften sensuous ("The rowboat drifts/ on this northern evening's midnight line of light/ and I float in it/ salt, and breath, and light,/ hawk and salmon and I"), full of odd repetitions ("Out of air,/ nose at the glass: to this gold dress/ Nose at the glass"), offering aphorisms and counter-aphorisms ("Do well in the world./ If you do well/ we'll throw you away"), and sometimes downright threatening ("A man whose arms and shoulders/ and hands and face and ears are covered with bees/ says, I've never known such pain"). Indeed, there is a slight air of menace here, as if life were full of little threats that needed constantly to be countered by good poetry. Valentine's unique imagination remains intact, but these poems are perhaps somewhat more accessible that in previous works (e.g., The River at Wolf, Alice James, 1992). Add this newest work by an important American poet wherever poetry is well read.Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"

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Carnegie-Mellon University Press
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