The title, Indelible, refers to the enduring marks of time's passage. Accordingly, the poems in this thematically resonant and tightly unified collection trace the ways family, art (particularly literature), elegy and dreams color and shape one another. The poems in Indelible pick up thematic threads from her earlier poetry with a new perspective, and new stylistic features such as prose and prose-like poems, but with all of the hallmarks Hadas' readers have come to expect: fine-honed style; human and very ...

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The title, Indelible, refers to the enduring marks of time's passage. Accordingly, the poems in this thematically resonant and tightly unified collection trace the ways family, art (particularly literature), elegy and dreams color and shape one another. The poems in Indelible pick up thematic threads from her earlier poetry with a new perspective, and new stylistic features such as prose and prose-like poems, but with all of the hallmarks Hadas' readers have come to expect: fine-honed style; human and very accessible subject matter; lyric beauty and formal control.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hadas's speaker remains distant, poised, oracle-like, even when waxing confessional in this eighth collection, following her 1998 new and selected volume. A classicist by training, Hadas uses traditional forms adeptly (blank verse, three-beat hymnal lines, a sestina), seems most comfortable in free verse, whether in long prose lines or short, unmetered ones. The book's first section contains, among other pieces, a series of lamentations for various dead; the second, a few longer variations on mythological themes; the third, a melange of forms and tones, generally more personal than the earlier sections. A few pieces are abstract and overly rhetorical, but distinct images pepper the collection. In a speaker's dream, "Feta cheese crumbled visibly in his open mouth like a stigma of greed"; in a mud season, "Pools give back the sky/ and sky fills our boot tracks/ so that we walk on air." Tonal disjunctions tie nursery rhymes to a half-hearted vernacular: "My bonny lies over the ocean... / Lightly she up and left." Too often, the energy of the formal pieces dissipates as the poems talk themselves out. The pieces elegizing the speaker's mother, in particular, tend toward a kind of privately stentorian honorific: "You are the sudden shower of rain/ softening paths to muddy brown./ You are the single shaft of sun/ illuminating afternoon// in the gazebo ." But the book's instants of emotional vulnerability will please Hadas's readers, and are often what compel the most. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819564405
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 10/30/2001
  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 109
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Rachel Hadas is a poet, translator, essayist, critic, and much of her work is influenced by her love of classics. Her books include Halfway Down the Hall: New and Selected Poems (Wesleyan, 1998), The Empty Bed (Wesleyan, 1995), and A Son from Sleep (Wesleyan, 1987). She has led creative writing workshops at the Gay Men's Health Alliance in New York for over ten years, and her own poems on the AIDS crisis have been lauded as being among the best elegies of our time. A Professor of English at Rutgers University, Hadas lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

      Thick and Thin

Time thickens.
Sticky, taffy-brown,
the malleable gunk of family
memories, resemblances, resentments,
anecdotes thumped and punched
by a succession of urgent hands
hardens and cools, but early lumps remain,
fingerprints, palmprints, even marks of teeth.
You spend a lifetime trying to smooth these out.
Time thins.
To the original mix nothing is added
but a steady trickle wrung from years,
a faintly salty broth, not tears, not sweat.
The solution weakens until only
a feeble fingerprint of this first scent
trembles half-imagined on the air.
That earliest essence—what was it again?
You spend a lifetime trying to get it back.

Samian Morning, 1971

The gypsy loomed in the open door of morning,
bulky, unsmiling, her head wrapped in a scarf.
Her hand was out. She wanted something from me.
I don't remember whether I faced her fully.
Had I looked her straight in the eye and then beyond her,
I would have seen the Aegean like a frame.
If I had looked far enough over her right shoulder,
I would have seen Patmos lifting in a strip of light
from the horizon's lip. Over her left
shoulder I could have craned and seen Ionia.
But both these radiant regions were blocked off
not only by the figurein the doorway.
Where had she come from? Behind the house was a field.
Beyond this square green field—it was a wheatfield-
were a bent fig tree and a low stone wall
and a whitewashed hut like a gatehouse. Behind the wall
a road wound north away from the coast to the village.
She could have just walked up Poseidon Street
to ours, the last house in the row. But I think
she came around from the side, the back, the North.
I used to think the wind blew straight from Russia.
Turkey was left, the East,
and right and West was the great granite mountain.
My stinginess and resentment balanced by shame,
I gave the gypsy something I remember
probably only because she scowled and reproached me.
Whether she came back a second time
to try again, another woman with her,
is wavering conjecture. But I see all right
the thing I gave her: bright yellow, cashmere,
still with its Saks Fifth Avenue label,
a sweater someone had given me, no doubt,
for the same reason I tried to palm it off
on the gypsy, who rejected it with scorn.
The sweater was marred. A stain like a port wine birthmark
splotched the front. Who would wear such a thing?
Not I. Not she. I recall the botched transaction
but have to supply the shining of the sea,
brilliant backdrop to the piebald life
I must have turned back to after the gypsy, grumbling,
took herself away from the open door,
though I do not know if I turned to it with relief.

      greenish red
or reddish black, all clinging tightly still.
And if the picker tugs impatiently,
the seeds feel woody, sour, dry,
no crushing in the mouth,
purpling of fingers, black perfume of fall.

But even if they ripened all at once
and early, and I had
a hundred hands and hours to spare, I know
that I would hear a low
call from behind the hill:
not loud but palpable, not shrill
but irresistible,
without whose urgent summons no
berries could muster this seductive glow;
without whose pull, strong and invisible,
from somewhere behind
the cold and golden, wet and tangled hill
I'd never lose myself in search of fruit.
Without the waiting world—
I do not see it yet, do not evoke,
only acknowledge it-
how could the berries keep
the mystery of their promise, sweet and black?
Once again this year I won't find out.
I hear the call
and I am going back.

      Déjà Vu

A flap in time, a hinge in space, a secret drawer, a panel,
an unexpectedly discovered island in the river,
an instant confidence that is immediately forgotten
until, unless some utter stranger comes upon it later,
years later, less by rumor, instinct, chance, blind luck, or vision,
than memory. These discoveries are the future recollected,
a bump of time scooped from hereafter and transferred to now,
stolid durations understudy, flashback of the future.
No wonder children (have I read this, heard, remembered,
    dreamed it?)
experience these interludes, these hidden flaps more strongly,
more urgently, as more uncanny, ghostly, and amazing
than those of us bowed down so blindly by the weight of days,
beyond astonishment, made numb by dint of repetition.
Children, with more they must experience, less they can
itch to accumulate, take hold of even what is not
exactly now, precisely then, but somehow in between—
ghostly, prophetic, a quotidian-gilding vision
wrung from the flux, the might have been, the maybe, the
the oh I wish I hope I dream, arcs of transcendent longing,
familiarity with lives unlived and yet available,
the haze not yet completely clear, all structures wreathed in mist
less blinding than what daily life is dully swaddled in,
each castle, tower, and labyrinth particular and gleaming,
each episode, each conversation burnished, fiercely clear.


By Rae Armantrout

Wesleyan University Press

Copyright © 2001 Rae Armantrout. All rights reserved.

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Table of Contents

Thick and Thin 3
Samian Morning, 1971 4
Ghost Jam 6
Deja Vu 8
The Last Time 9
The Caravan 10
Mourning's Dichotomy 12
Around Lake Erie and Across the Hudson 13
The Glass of Milk 15
Mud Season 16
The Week After Easter: Heaven's Gate 17
Dream Houses 19
The Banquet 22
Humble Herb Is Rival to Prozac 26
Motherless Fall 29
The Lost House 32
In the Grove 33
The Letter 35
Helen Variations 43
Pomegranate Variations 49
Change Is the Stranger 55
The Genre Clerk 61
Four Short Stories 62
The Costume Chest 64
Props 66
Homage to Winslow Homer 67
Recycling 68
Skirts 71
My Mother's Closet 72
Sisters 75
The Light Bulb 78
Fathers and Daughters, Mothers and Sons 80
Rough Winds Do Shake 85
My Father's O.S.S. File 86
Eye Level 87
Last Afternoon in Athens 88
Love and War 89
Bedtime Stories 92
The End of Summer 95
The Crust House 97
The Web 99
The Seamy Side 100
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