Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006


“Genius. Voigt is a poet of knowledge, and knowledge in the living, messy world.”—Robert Pinsky, Washington Post Book World
To witness the maturation of a poet over time is one of the great pleasures of reading. Here Ellen Bryant Voigt gives us that narrative distilled and amplified, arranging selections from six previous volumes to culminate in transcendent recent poems.

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Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006

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“Genius. Voigt is a poet of knowledge, and knowledge in the living, messy world.”—Robert Pinsky, Washington Post Book World
To witness the maturation of a poet over time is one of the great pleasures of reading. Here Ellen Bryant Voigt gives us that narrative distilled and amplified, arranging selections from six previous volumes to culminate in transcendent recent poems.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Consistently respected by her contemporaries, Voigt's quiet but often violently powerful poems of autobiography, pastoral and history have not always gained the broad attention they deserve. This seventh book (her first retrospective) may ensure that she gets it. Voigt's descriptive powers pop out first: a snake, for instance, is a "wrinkle coming toward me in the grass." Her anecdotes, scenic lyrics, parables and loosely structured sequences ask, however, to be judged for the ways in which they depict people-the poet, her husband, her sisters, their ailing and dying parents, or, in Kyrie (1995), the victims of the devastating flu epidemic of 1918. Voigt seems to know a lot about birds and bird-watching, and even more about the classical piano repertoire; these specialties further enliven the sensitive poems of domestic and wild spaces she has composed throughout her career, from a catalogue of birds early on to a recent "redbird fixed on the branch like a ripe fruit." Voigt's latest and most original poetry delves furthest into the human interior, finding-like a friendlier, warmer version of Voigt's longtime friend Louise Gluck-the hidden motives behind all human endeavor: "the past," she writes, "is not a scar but a wound;/ I've seen it breaking open." (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Voigt's latest represents a large body of work from a poet too little known. These poems convey a rare sense of motion from line to line, as in the dynamics of the piano music the poet often describes from the perspective of its player, with theme, variation, and the able use of those evocative Italian terms, like rubato and glissando. These qualities sweep the reader into a deeply felt natural and imagined world. Birds are familiars (grosbeak, chickadee) seen from below that land in meadows dense with life (old oaks and oleander) but with life's mutability inherently understood. Some of the best work here also documents the movement of families-as in a long, sequenced narrative following sons coming back from war less than whole and those dead from flu on the home front, circa 1919. For readers tentative about poetry, this large and varied collection is accessible, with language that is never falsely elevated but that takes pleasure in naming what it knows. Readers who enjoy such diverse contemporary poets as Maxine Kumin and Ted Kooser will find much to admire here, as will those who treasure the poems of an earlier generation (Robert Frost and Elizabeth Bishop come to mind). Recommended for large public and academic libraries, particularly those seeking to extend their contemporary poetry selections.-Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393331448
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/28/2008
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 719,856
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Ellen Bryant Voigt is the author of volumes of poetry, including Shadow of Heaven, a finalist for the National Book Award, and Messenger, a finalist for the National Book Award and for the Pulitzer Prize. Voigt was awarded the O. B. Hardison, Jr. Prize from the Folger Shakespeare Library, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Merrill Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, where she was subsequently elected a chancellor. Her poems have appeared in an array of national journals and anthologies, including The Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry. She lives in Vermont and teaches in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

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Table of Contents

The hen 15
Harvest 16
Dialogue : poetics 17
Stork 19
Damage 20
The letter 21
The visit 22
Snakeskin 23
Tropics 25
Blue ridge 29
A fugue 32
The happiness poems 36
Talking the fire out 38
For my father 44
Year's end 47
Liebesgedicht 49
Jug brook 50
Sweet everlasting 51
The last class 57
Visiting the graves 59
The photograph 60
The field trip 61
The trust 63
The farmer 64
Bright leaf 66
Amaryllis 68
Nightshade 70
The waterfall 71
Dancing with poets 73
Feast day 75
Short story 77
Stone pond 79
The lotus flowers 80
The innocents 85
At the piano 86
Variations : at the piano 88
After Keats 93
Woman who weeps 94
Two trees 96
Variations : two trees 98
Soft cloud passing 105
Effort at speech 108
Song and story 110
Largesse 153
Winter field 155
Long marriage 156
Lesson 158
Himalaya 159
High winds flare up and the old house shudders 161
The garden, spring, the hawk 162
The art of distance 177
Horace : Ode I.xxxiv 193
Autumn in the yard we planted 194
Practice 195
The feeder 199
Deathbed 209
The hive 210
Harvesting the cows 212
Rubato 215
Redbud 225
The tattered dress 228
Prayer 229
Adagio 231
Messenger 232
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