Mean

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Overview

In the appropriately titled Mean, Colette LaBouff Atkinson’s speakers confront a series of cruel lovers, estranged ex-husbands and ex-ex-wives, neglectful parents, disrespectful children, menacing drunks, would-be rapists, well-meaning but ineffectual teachers, and that annoying kid in first grade who wouldn’t leave you alone. Managing to “say” what most of us would only think but never dare speak out loud, this stunning debut collection reveals that the horrors and cruelty we experience in everyday life can turn out to be very real indeed. But Atkinson does not merely rake her subjects across the coals: she deftly exposes, instead, how the world mirrors back to us our own meanness, lending it a truth and a history. In forty-three deadpan, often merciless prose poems that are masterpieces of the form, Mean lays bare the darkness within the narrator’s heart as well as in ours.   
           

"Colette Labouff Atkinson’s artful laconicism attains the force of a shout, without ever raising its voice. The intelligent, merciless narrative cool arrays a sad comedy, with an unemphatic but penetrating 'and then . . . and then': accounts of love pursued far more often than it is glimpsed or realized."—Robert Pinsky
 
 
 
 

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
Atkinson is as comfortable riffing on pop culture as she is on Cicero, John Milton, and Herodotus, all of whom show up in her poems. But this is not showing off. Rather, these bits and pieces—unexpected, at times half-remembered, only give more weight to her experience, a heady mix of ideas and influences that reverberates like memory in the mind.”

— David Ulin

Los Angeles Times - David Ulin

“Atkinson is as comfortable riffing on pop culture as she is on Cicero, John Milton, and Herodotus, all of whom show up in her poems. But this is not showing off. Rather, these bits and pieces—unexpected, at times half-remembered, only give more weight to her experience, a heady mix of ideas and influences that reverberates like memory in the mind.”
Robert Pinsky

"Colette LaBouff Atkinson’s artful laconicism attains the force of a shout, without ever raising its voice. The intelligent, merciless narrative cool arrays a sad comedy, with an unemphatic but penetrating 'and then . . . and then': accounts of love pursued far more often than it is glimpsed or realized."

Jennifer Clarvoe

“What I love about the ferociously efficient poems in Colette Atkinson’s Mean is how paradoxically generous they are. Dead-set against sweetness, they seek to make of ‘mean’ a term of hard-won praise. In the stories they tell about our helter-skelter, contradictory wanting, they pursue the mean-streak that keeps us honest, that keeps us going after what we want, even if or especially when it means breaking what we thought we wanted.”

Killarney Clary

“Atkinson has taken charge of her personal history, mapped it out across the rough sides of suburban coastal southern California where she drives to the Pacific to be without force, and to be revealed. Mixing popular movies, songs, and arcade games with thoughts on Milton, Augustine, and Herodotus, and with sympathy for the misunderstood crow and turkey vulture, Mean cracks a whip that cracks back on itself—aware at each step that what is given up, in kindness or cruelty, is never balanced by the reward.”
Stephanie Brown

“The poems in Colette LaBouff Atkinson’s Mean blend high culture, pop culture, and pathos. As a writer of lean prose poems that are technically masterful but never fussy, LaBouff Atkinson is also a storyteller of contemporary America: its influences by both John Milton and The Amityville Horror.  Her keen eye for detail entertains and informs the reader while she spins a tale of mixed emotions, family history, love, loss, and solitude: an accurate record of the way we live today.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226030593
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2008
  • Series: Phoenix Poets Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 72
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Colette LaBouff Atkinson is associate director of the International Center for Writing and Translation at the University of California, Irvine.
 
 
 

 

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
 
Space Race     
Mean
Mean, Part Two
Medium Intense Red Copper
Rocket
Loose  
Heat Wave
Hart Crane Slept Here
Four
London (1987)           
Wrecking
Three Days of the Condor
The Glass Show Lounge
Bakasana
Deal
I’m sorry I was blind  
Hover
Intention (The Dead Leaves)
Gain
Spring Fling
New World
Laurel 
Replacement Monkey 
Spirit
Proximity
Juju’s Sister
Gun Dog
Flower Girl
Park Bench
Perhaps this verse would please you better—Sue—(2)
Prosthetic
Garden Variety
For God’s Sake, Get Out
Route
1652
Graphic Novel Romance (V for Vendetta)
Ghost Squad
Hips
1971
Port of Los Angeles
Taking it like a little soldier, aren’t you?
Fortune-Telling
Gardena Freeway, California           
 
Notes

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