Iris: A Narrative Poem

Overview

I haven't read a new poem for years as extravagantly daring as Mark Jarman's IRIS. This strange and obsessive narrative risks violating almost every preconception we have about how a serious contemporary poem should behave. First, IRIS risks seeming unoriginal. The poem is a passionate homage to Robinson Jeffers, our most neglected modern master. Jarman borrows Jeffers' line, his voice, his landscapes, and his vision. Eventually he even borrows Jeffers himself by making his imagined ghost the tragic chorus of ...
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1992 Paperback Good Connecting readers with great books since 1972. Used books may not include companion materials, some shelf wear, may contain highlighting/notes, and may not ... include cd-rom or access codes. Customer service is our top priority! Read more Show Less

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Overview

I haven't read a new poem for years as extravagantly daring as Mark Jarman's IRIS. This strange and obsessive narrative risks violating almost every preconception we have about how a serious contemporary poem should behave. First, IRIS risks seeming unoriginal. The poem is a passionate homage to Robinson Jeffers, our most neglected modern master. Jarman borrows Jeffers' line, his voice, his landscapes, and his vision. Eventually he even borrows Jeffers himself by making his imagined ghost the tragic chorus of this feverish drama. But the sheer audacity of Jarman's appropriations - like Blake recasting Milton or Pound impersonating Propertius - becomes something more wildly innovative and astonishing than those tame adjustments of theme and style we normally praise as originality. Next, IRIS risks being earnest. In an age when literary criticism celebrates irony, ambivalence, and indeterminacy, Jarman resolutely insists that poetry can truthfully explore matters of mortal consequence. IRIS is the story of a woman who refuses to be crushed by the sordid circumstances of her life - the poverty and drugs, the violence and unredemptive love. In a better world she would have been an artist. But in her desperate corner she struggles simply to understand how freedom or fulfillment is possible. Born to hell, she strains for a glimpse of paradise, even if it can never be her own. Finally, IRIS risks reaching for the sublime. Writing about the landscapes of everyday life, using the language of ordinary people, Jarman pushes his material to its uppermost limit where naturalism merges into myth. IRIS has enhanced the possibilities of our literature by reclaiming a lost tradition of American poetry.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Few long poems combine the narrative and poetic modes as successfully as this complex, powerfully moving tale, which profiles an impoverished and abused young woman from Kentucky whose only redemption is the ``life she imagined from a book of poems''--namely, the work of Robinson Jeffers. His imagery echoes in Jarman's text and transforms Iris's dreary homes (in Western Kentucky, then Los Angeles) into a transcendent world: slicked-down hair shines ``like a wallet''; the road becomes a ``mottled snakeskin.'' The poem concludes with Iris reaching the end of her quest at Jeffers's magical seaside house and tower. A rich, seductive reading experience; the pages fairly turn themselves. Strongly recommended.-- Daniel L. Guillory, Millikin Univ., Decatur, Ill.
Booknews
In this book-length narrative poem, Iris, a Kentucky woman in her twenties, escapes an abusive husband and returns home to her mother and drug-running brothers with her young daughter. Having discovered the poetry of Robinson Jeffers, her interest in his work, which she equates with mythical California and a new life, becomes an obsession. Published by Story Line Press, Three Oaks Farm, 27006 Gap Road, Brownsville, OR 97327-9718. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780934257886
  • Publisher: Story Line Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1992
  • Pages: 134
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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