Loose Sugar

Overview

Loose Sugar is an alchemical manuscript disguised as a collection of poems, or vice versa. Either way, the primal materials of which this book is comprised — love, sex, adolescence, space-time, depression, post-colonialism, and sugar — are movingly and mysteriously transmuted: not into gold, but into a poet's philosopher's stone, in which language marries life.

Structurally virtuosic, elaborate without being ornate, Loose Sugar is spun into series within series: each of the five...

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Loose Sugar

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Overview

Loose Sugar is an alchemical manuscript disguised as a collection of poems, or vice versa. Either way, the primal materials of which this book is comprised — love, sex, adolescence, space-time, depression, post-colonialism, and sugar — are movingly and mysteriously transmuted: not into gold, but into a poet's philosopher's stone, in which language marries life.

Structurally virtuosic, elaborate without being ornate, Loose Sugar is spun into series within series: each of the five sections has a dual heading (such as "space / time" or "time / work") in which the terms are neither in collision nor collusion, but in conversation. It's elemental sweet talk, and is Brenda Hillman's most experimental work to date, culminating in a meditation on the possibility of a native — and feminine — language.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This energetic collection is very different from Hillman's recent collections, Death Tractates 1992 and its companion volume Bright Existence. That pair took a somber, reflective tone in dealing with a close friend's death and Hillman's attempts to come to terms with mortality. This volume is as loose as the sequence of 12 poems from which comes the book's titlea wild ride that includes quotes, parenthetical fragments, monetary charts and wonderful poetic snapshots of Hillman's native Brazil where her father worked in the sugar industry as well as descriptions of her current life "sometimes the outline of my husband's ear in the half dark/ looks like Brazil". The poems are concerned with the connection between immediacy and history, body and soul, thought and feeling. But sustained poetic argument is not Hillman's focus here. Conceit and idea fade before sensuous descriptions of men and women whose "hands were sleek/ with asking sleek with asking," of schoolboys with "those long intramural after/ the library type fingers/ they would later put in you," and of girls standing "in long paisley dresses, coyote cries/ coming through them, something frightened and/ being canceled." In many ways, the collection lives up to its title: its attention is scattered, and so are its many pleasures. Mar.
From The Critics
"Time in Brenda Hillman's poetry resembles loose sugar ground from the cane of Brazil, a vivid detail of her Brazilian childhood. It sifts through the 'deep noticing' of the poet as she matures in California. Memories (real or imagined) are gathered into highly 'scenic' poetics. I admire the way Hillman attaches a plumage (or energy) to her nude expressive details. I see Loose Sugar as part of the anatomy of the rare bird of 'autobiographical' experimentation."
Library Journal
In the poem that gives title to this collection, sugarprecious, warm, quickly used up, and easily lostis a metaphor for time. Sugar was the rare commodity that brought borrowers to the door of Hillman's barely remembered childhood home in Brazil: "Laterthe rest of my lifetime resembles warm sugar, something almost imaginary having to do with asking." Underlined by the book's section titles"space/time," "time/alchemy," "problem/ time," and so onis the telescoping conceit of time, deceivingly abundant in personal recollections of adolescent sexuality in Southwestern U.S. suburbia, or impossibly scarce in the present complexities of family and work: "sex grows rather dim sometimes/ doesn't it but it comes back." The experimental nature of much of these poemsseeming to emerge from the compulsion to "stop making sense" in the traditional fashiontakes the writer into the margins of her page with poetic counterpoint in fine print, parentheses enclosing blank spaces, mind-bending quotes from Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, and other departures from linear narrative. And although some readers may tire of the ride, many will nevertheless be attracted to this West Coast poet, whose humor and irony never fail to shine through.Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819522436
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 3/21/1997
  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 127
  • Sales rank: 1,146,674
  • Product dimensions: 5.95 (w) x 8.93 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

BRENDA HILLMAN teaches writing at St. Mary's College in Moraga, CA. Her other books, all published by Wesleyan, include Cascadia (2001), Death Tractates (1992), Bright Existence (1992), and Fortress (1989).

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Table of Contents

The Spark 3
Thicket Group: A Power 8
Thicket Group: Empty Spines 9
Thicket Group: A Window 10
Thicket Group: The Thicket 11
Thicket Group: Dust Devils 12
The Arroyo 13
Early Sex 16
Orion's Belt 18
Active Magic 20
Cheap Gas 27
Male Nipples 29
An Event 32
Chevron Tankers 33
(visitor fragments) 35
Proud Energy 43
No Problem 45
Somewhat Anthem 46
The Bat 53
Symmetry Breaking 54
C ode 55
River Song 56
The cliffs 59
Doubting chamber 60
Horizontal series 61
Deep noticing 62
Trap door 63
Spiral lullaby 64
Below below 65
The escalator 66
The cave 67
Visitor fragment 68
Various outposts 69
High vortex 70
Blue square 71
Time's Body 75
Time Problem 77
Band Practice 80
Busy Week: Being Busy 81
Busy Week: Very Busy 82
Busy Week: Really Busy 83
The Particles 85
Time Zone 87
Early Vacations 88
The Unbeginning 93
The Mysteries 94
Loose Sugar: Two Rivers 97
Loose Sugar: National Development 98
Loose Sugar: Two Mothers 99
Loose Sugar: (notes) 100
Two Brothers 101
Stuck Tram 102
Loose Sugar 103
Red Fingernails 104
Vanilla Continued 105
The Corcovado 106
Beach Photos 107
Mother's Language 108
Remembering Form 109
World/axis 111
Note 113
Acknowledgments 115
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