The King: Poemsby Rebecca Wolff
A bold, lyrical invention by an award-winning poet whose “gift for the gorgeous” won praise from Robert Pinsky. The King is a groundbreaking collection following a Selfa mother, lover, wife, thinkerin her fractured approach to
"Wolff keeps company with Sylvia Plath, Sharon Olds, and Beth Ann Fennelly."Publishers Weekly, starred review
A bold, lyrical invention by an award-winning poet whose “gift for the gorgeous” won praise from Robert Pinsky. The King is a groundbreaking collection following a Selfa mother, lover, wife, thinkerin her fractured approach to the absolutes of pregnancy, postpartum depression, childrearing, belief, love, and epistemology. Here is a potent exploration of one woman’s coming together with the Otherher hard-won attachment to “the King.”
from “Deeply Psychological”And then I surfaced a whole matrix or rubric magical thinking other kinds of thinking but in layers, you understand,
with supremacy a honeycomb.
In her third book, Wolff (Figment) keeps company with Sylvia Plath, Sharon Olds and Beth Ann Fennelly, challenging the idea that motherhood is a glossy miracle that makes the mother special. "I had a baby," writes a deadpan Wolff, "it was inevitable-I was pregnant." In these short, jagged poems, motherhood often manifests itself in anxiety and self-consciousness: "I mean to say// something here! Not to enact/or reference." Wolff is leery of such commands to the self, and leerier still of their results. In "A History of Depression," she describes the defective desires of an upset speaker: "You command,/ in your grasp, a unicorn,/ or some other damned, faux-virginal/ beast: Paleface on the gospel path,/ damp./ Inclined to list." Wolff, editor of the literary journal Fence, divides this long collection into seven sections, the first six of which carry titles evoking those forces that dominate the poet: "The Condition," "The Baby," "The King," "The Man," "The Baby," "The Lord." Wanting to negotiate-intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and poetically-such concepts leads Wolff into the mind's knottier realms. In the book's final section, "Depth Essay," the speaker can be breathtakingly brave in her confessions, if not always pretty: "I've had my children and cannot/ take that back. Buddhists call // it suffering." (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Poems about the dark side of childbirth can't help but recall Plath inside her damp, haunted English cottage. But, unlike Plath, Wolff in her third collection stands outside her life and points: "our house lies somewhere at the end of the road." Little more of the physical is revealed—cemeteries, a playing field, a nursing infant—as Wolff seeks precision in lingual transpositions: "why do you have to be so previous?" The book is divided into titled sections, such as "The Condition," "The Baby," and "The King," that record the mind's difficulty adjusting to motherhood. The king represents, perhaps, everything that the speaker must come to terms with, including the baby, who is both "matter and subject" (pun noted) and who changes everything. The mother is left to "queen it/ over emptiness." She is divided by everything about her condition, so that it becomes unclear even to which of the two males in her life she refers: "What he loves me for/ I do in secret." VERDICT Wolff's previous collection, Figment, won the Barnard Women Poets Prize. Her latest work is sometimes baffling yet brave and intense. A good challenge for sophisticated poetry readers.—Ellen Kaufman, New York Religion
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.40(d)
Meet the Author
Rebecca Wolff is the editor of Fence and the author of Manderley, Figment and Continuum. She lives in Athens, New York, with her family and is a Fellow of the New York State Writers Institute.
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