I Praise My Destroyer: Poems

I Praise My Destroyer: Poems

by Diane Ackerman
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

In her first new book of poetry since Jaguar of Sweet Laughter, poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman combines her deep understanding of the world with her immense passion for language to craft richly sensual poems that "honor all life/wherever and in whatever form/it may deal."

Imbued with ravishing imagery, these exuberant and lyrical

See more details below

Overview

In her first new book of poetry since Jaguar of Sweet Laughter, poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman combines her deep understanding of the world with her immense passion for language to craft richly sensual poems that "honor all life/wherever and in whatever form/it may deal."

Imbued with ravishing imagery, these exuberant and lyrical explorations of aging, longing, and death demonstrate Ackerman's full engagement with every aspect of life's process. Ackerman muses on the confines of therapy sessions, where she intersects "twice a week/in a painstaking hide-and-seek/making do with half-light, half-speak"; relishes the succulent pleasure of eating an apricot, with its "gush of taboo sweetness"; and imagines the "unupholstered voice, a life in outline" in her stunning elegy to C. S. Lewis. Whimsical, organic, and wise, the poems in I Praise My Destroyer affirm Ackerman's place as one of the most enchanting poets writing today.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Brilliant . . . Ackerman expresses her signature love for the world in all its seething glory. . . . Her sensuality is still in full force."  —Booklist

"[These poems are] full of physical participation in the world, human involvement, and (as one might expect of this scholar of the senses) an eloquent eye."  —Richard Wilbur

"Vivid, playful, abundant, these poems constitute a directory of colors, an assembly of weathers, waters, creatures, and a bold, brash, invincible vote of confidence."  —Anthony Hecht

"[Ackerman's] poems express a sense of sheer joy in physical existence, which she explores in language that has its own intense life. The book is a pure pleasure."  —Louis Simpson

KLIATT
In her title piece, Ackerman expresses themes that appear throughout the collection in these lines: "How can it all end,/spring white in the dogwoods,/sunset's purple rigging/bellied high over the horizon/mating lizards in the yard, and sailboats on the lake/-both with bubble throats?" The impermanence of life, both the drama and quiet beauty of nature, and the need to experience it all; these are all preoccupations of Ackerman's, both in her prose works on the environment and in her poetry. She speaks from the experience, whether watching cabbage moths or working on a cattle ranch. Although Ackerman displays her extensive vocabulary, especially those words gleaned from study of the natural world, she sometimes fails to reach for the profound or unique expression of an emotion or idea, sometimes settling for cliché. In "We Die," a heartfelt tribute to astronomer Carl Sagan, she dilutes her grief by resorting to platitudes like: "Life is not fair, the old saw goes." Or else the metaphor is a stretch, as in "The Sorrow Rangers," which, in addition to being too general, does not work to convey the powerlessness we sometimes feel when experiencing sorrow. Still, Ackerman's poems are important because they speak the emotions we find hard to express, both the sorrow of loss and the celebration of life. She enjoys language. One of my favorites is "Pyrrhic," a poem about letting go, literally letting nature take its course. She teaches us new words: "onion thrip," "wall-rue fern." She's also playful, even writing one piece, a tribute to cats, in Middle English. Often her experiments in language do work, as in more extended pieces where she has a chance to use her descriptivetalents in setting a scene, as in her longest piece, "Cantos Vaqueros," a love song to a Mexican cowboy. But she takes a bit too long to come to the point of her poem—that this hard physical work she does with them takes her out of a mind too busy with words. Ackerman is a writer who should be read, either her prose or poetry, because of her insistence on the necessity of humans to glory in the world that we often have little time to experience, both in its minutiae and its vastness. Her poems are accessible and provocative even if not as masterful as some. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1998, Random House/Vintage, 114p, 21cm, 97-34464, $12.00. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Sue E. Budin; YA Libn., Ann Arbor P.L., Ann Arbor, MI January 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 1)

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679771340
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/28/2000
Pages:
128
Sales rank:
1,058,316
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.34(d)

Read an Excerpt

WE DIE
for Carl Sagan

We die despite appointments and feuds,
while our toddler,
who recently learned to say No,
opens and shuts drawers a hundred times a day and our teen braces for the rapids of romance.

We die despite the contracts and business trips we planned,
when our desk is untidy,
despite a long list of things to do which we keep simmering like a pot of rich broth.

We die despite work we cherish,
marrying whom we love,
piling up a star-spangled fortune,
basking on the Riviera of fame,
and achieving, that human participle with no known object.

Life is not fair, the old saw goes.
We know, we know, but the saw glides slow,
one faint rasp, and then at length another.
When you died, I felt its jagged teeth rip.
Small heartwounds opened and bled,
closing as new ones opened ahead.
Horror welled, not from the how but the when.

You died at the top of your career,
happy, blessed by love, still young.
Playing by evolution's rules, you won:
prospered, bred, rose in your tribe,
did what the parent gods and society prized.

Yet it didn't save you, love or dough.
Even when it happens slow, it happens fast,
and then there's no tomorrow.
Time topples, the castle of cards collapses,
thoughts melt, the subscription lapses.
What a waste of life we spend in asking,
in wish and worry and want and sorrow.

A tall man, you lie low, now and forever complete, your brilliant star eclipsed.
I remember our meeting, many gabfests ago,
at a crossroads of moment and mind.
In later years, touched by nostalgia,
I teased: "I knew you when you were just a badly combed scientist."
With a grin, you added: "I knew you when you were just a fledgling poet."

Lost friend, you taught me lessons
I longed to learn, and this final one I've learned against my will: the one spoken in silence,
warning us to love hard and deep,
clutch dear ones tighter, ransom each day,
the horror lesson I saw out of the corner of my eye but refused to believe until now: we die.

WE DIE
for Carl Sagan

We die despite appointments and feuds,
while our toddler,
who recently learned to say No,
opens and shuts drawers a hundred times a day and our teen braces for the rapids of romance.

We die despite the contracts and business trips we planned,
when our desk is untidy,
despite a long list of things to do which we keep simmering like a pot of rich broth.

We die despite work we cherish,
marrying whom we love,
piling up a star-spangled fortune,
basking on the Riviera of fame,
and achieving, that human participle with no known object.

Life is not fair, the old saw goes.
We know, we know, but the saw glides slow,
one faint rasp, and then at length another.
When you died, I felt its jagged teeth rip.
Small heartwounds opened and bled,
closing as new ones opened ahead.
Horror welled, not from the how but the when.

You died at the top of your career,
happy, blessed by love, still young.
Playing by evolution's rules, you won:
prospered, bred, rose in your tribe,
did what the parent gods and society prized.

Yet it didn't save you, love or dough.
Even when it happens slow, it happens fast,
and then there's no tomorrow.
Time topples, the castle of cards collapses,
thoughts melt, the subscription lapses.
What a waste of life we spend in asking,
in wish and worry and want and sorrow.

A tall man, you lie low, now and forever complete, your brilliant star eclipsed.
I remember our meeting, many gabfests ago,
at a crossroads of moment and mind.
In later years, touched by nostalgia,
I teased: "I knew you when you were just a badly combed scientist."
With a grin, you added: "I knew you when you were just a fledgling poet."

Lost friend, you taught me lessons
I longed to learn, and this final one I've learned against my will: the one spoken in silence,
warning us to love hard and deep,
clutch dear ones tighter, ransom each day,
the horror lesson I saw out of the corner of my eye but refused to believe until now: we die.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >