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The Last Usable Hour
     

The Last Usable Hour

by Deborah Landau
 

“The poems of Landau’s stunning second collection are dark, urgent, sexy, deeply sad, and, above all, powerful.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Landau’s intimate, lonely poems are profoundly engaged with the experience of the self in its starkest moments: when it is deprived, nocturnal, barely lingual...She

Overview

“The poems of Landau’s stunning second collection are dark, urgent, sexy, deeply sad, and, above all, powerful.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Landau’s intimate, lonely poems are profoundly engaged with the experience of the self in its starkest moments: when it is deprived, nocturnal, barely lingual...She creates a deeply erotic and resonant encounter between the lyric I and its solitude.” —The Boston Review

“She is both confessional and direct, like Sylvia Plath and Allen Ginsberg. Her taut, elegant, highly controlled constructions meditate upon yearning and selfhood… Landau reminds us of the nuanced beauty of language as, through their directness, her tight, graceful poems make readers feel as if they spoke only to them.” —Booklist

“These beautiful harrowing poems are new-minted and young, but also age-old, broken and wise. She has found the perfect tone for her ‘city of interiors.’”—Huffington Post

"Hooray for a writer who can weave presence and absence, longing and loss of longing, into a tapestry of language as rich, honest, and compelling as this."—Naomi Shihab Nye

"Landau registers the intensities of the flesh: pleasure, desire, limitation, and, ultimately, disappearance."—Mark Doty

It is "always nighttime" in Deborah Landau's second collection—a series of linked lyric sequences, including insomniac epistolary love poems to an elusive "someone." Here is a haunted singing voice, clear and spare, alive with memory and desire, yet hounded by premonitions of a calamitous future. The speaker in this "ghost book" is lucid and passionate, even as everything is disappearing.

blame the egg blame the fractured stones
at the bottom of the mind

blame his darkblue glare and craggy mug
the bulky king of trudge and stein

how I love a masculine in my parlor
his grizzly shout and weight one hundred drums

in this everywhere of blunt and soft sinking
I am the heavy hollow snared

the days are spring the days are summer
the days are nothing and not dead yet

Deborah Landau was educated at Stanford University, Columbia University, and Brown University, where she was a Javits Fellow and received a PhD in English and American literature. She co-hosts "Open Book" on Slate.com and is the Director of the NYU Creative Writing Program. She lives in the Soho neighborhood of New York City.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The poems of Landau's stunning second collection are dark, urgent, sexy, deeply sad, and, above all, powerful. Grouped into four sequences whose titles—"All Else Fails," "Blue Dark," "Someone" and "Welcome to the Future"—are as haunting as they are indicative of the psychic situation in which the book locates itself; these poems are spoken by a woman on the verge of letting go, giving up, fading away. The poems place us in a dark "new york/ city of hidden interiors" where the poems' speaker says to a lover (most likely imaginary), "dear someone I put a shimmer on for you/ tonight I am all sequins all lies// for you I've slit my skirt/ made a neckhole of longing." Real or not, this affair is dangerous, opening a pit of self-hate, though Landau's abandon is thrilling in the way danger always is: "dear someone," a later poems says, "thanks for the dream/ you leave a deep blue crease/ in the center of my day." Their speaker isn't sure where these very private verses—or perhaps confessions—are leading, but she knows she won't be coming back: "I'd say my name to him/ as we crossed the Triboro// I'd say it softly the way he likes it// it would be the last time/ I'd introduce myself that way." (July)
Library Journal
Landau's second collection (after Orchidelirium) explores the myriad ways one can experience city night—through moonlight, streetlights, bridges, and business neon: "I am always nighttime on the inside/ barefoot and heretic." The book imparts a narrative of a woman newly alone in New York after the loss of a "dear someone," with lines such as "the sleepers stacked/ and caged," which give readers a visceral feel for the loneliness of urban life. The book starts slowly—the first section includes too many "I" poems and relies on too many pronouns—but by the middle sections, Landau appears at her best in synthesizing loss and mining memory: "the smell of diesel your hand/ on my soft places trucks shattering/ broome street." Throughout, understated themes appear, disappear, and return as they do in music, and Landau is adept at capturing desire with unique details: "There's a little hole in my boot./ Could you put your finger in it?" Caesuras break the speed of her lines, and she reveals a painterly control of white space. VERDICT This collection pulls you in slowly, but once there, you are transported by an assured dramatic voice that mourns time passing and love lost.—Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781556593345
Publisher:
Copper Canyon Press
Publication date:
06/21/2011
Pages:
96
Sales rank:
1,277,120
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.30(d)

Meet the Author

Deborah Landau: Deborah Landau is the author of Orchidelirium, which won the Anhinga Prize for Poetry. She was educated at Stanford, Columbia, and Brown, where she was a Javits Fellow and received a Ph.D. in English and American Literature. She co-hosts Open Book on Slate.com and is the Director of the NYU Creative Writing Program. She lives in the Soho neighborhood of New York City.

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