Minsk: Poems

Minsk: Poems

by Lavinia Greenlaw
     
 

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From the London Zoo to an Essex village and the Arctic Circle, Greenlaw explores elements of place-the child-hood landscapes we leave behind, those we travel toward, and those that we believe to be missing from our lives. Greenlaw's restless, inquisitive tone builds to make Minsk a hypnotic collection from one of the leading poets of her generation.

Camel

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Overview

From the London Zoo to an Essex village and the Arctic Circle, Greenlaw explores elements of place-the child-hood landscapes we leave behind, those we travel toward, and those that we believe to be missing from our lives. Greenlaw's restless, inquisitive tone builds to make Minsk a hypnotic collection from one of the leading poets of her generation.

Camel Hair

Every few years it becomes a question of backbone.
Anhedonia,
not love of winter but a loss of the feel of the world,
a way ahead of the cold.
Even the cells refuse to talk to one another.
As black and white as a two-hour wait on the kerb of a six-lane arterial road,
in a secondhand straw-coloured Dior coat,
for the last bus and its overload to accelerate past out of its own well-oiled backsplash.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
UK PRAISE FOR LAVINIA GREENLAW
"Everything Greenlaw touches glitters and resonates, her discipline and skill allowing her to be serious, soulful, knockabout, funny and down-right strange in the course of a few lines."-VOGUE

"Her work is . . . lingeringly memorable for the way it combines an excited way of thinking with a calm way of looking." -ANDREW MOTION , THE OBSERVER

Time
"Greenlaw's poems are dreams of travel and longing for home—they have the clarity and purity one associates with cold air."
New York Sun
"Greenlaw writes precisely and without inflation about memory, family, travel and art."
Orlando Sentinel
"A solid treasure of poems...essential"
Publishers Weekly
A much-revered English poet makes her American debut with this subtle and consistently polished collection, whose title refers not just to a cold Belarussian capital but to cold hearts and cold shoulders close to home. Greenlaw's brilliantly downcast opening sequence describes a frustrating smalltown childhood, lived "in a quiet place/ where the undiluted dark of the streets/ without streetlight, had no emphasis." Poems about piano lessons, kids' antics aimed "smack dab in the village eye," "anhedonia" and a young adult's struggles in London give Greenlaw's careful and sympathetic take on what appears to be her own biography, while similarly deft poems chronicle medieval and fairy tale lives that resemble her own or seek parallels in mythology and zoology. A closing sequence (called, for the prevalent ice, "A Drink of Glass") follows the poet's trip to the Arctic Circle. Often compared to Elizabeth Bishop, Greenlaw is also a talented novelist (Mary George of Allnorthover), and the quiet triumphs show both her Bishop-like subtlety and her talent for compressed narrative. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Prize-winning poet and novelist Greenlaw (Mary George of Allnorthover) presents a lovely and intelligent collection that asks serious questions about the nature of childhood memory and its presence in our lives ("what better place/ than somewhere you wake up/ to everything years after it's moved on?"). Childhood is portrayed as a place both familiar and out of reach, without clarity, however intimate. The narrator realizes, page after page, that "I did not fall when I fell down the stairs" because "there's slow and there's the discovery of slow./ The last bus has not gone./ It never comes." Then, the narrator's concerns move from obsession with detail (her mother's contact lenses, piano pedals, birds' eggs) to more abstract expanses ("that your soul is sometimes strange to you,/ is as it is and will become more so"). These poems are always musical, and this music is restless and often unexpected. Yet for all her love of wordplay, Greenlaw's work seems to be at its best when it is most clear-as in this beautiful passage: "When things lift away from themselves/ we can do no more in words than meet them/ with similar. Why not remain speechless?/ Theatetus complained to Socrates/ of dizziness when asked beyond what is/ as it is named. His sickness was wonder." For all contemporary poetry collections.-Ilya Kaminsky, Writer in Residence, Phillips Exeter Acad., NH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780151010929
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
04/04/2005
Pages:
96
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

THE SPIRIT OF THE STAIRCASE
In our game of flight, half-way down was as near mid-air as it got: a point of no return we'd fling ourselves at over and over, riding pillows or trays.
We were quick to smooth the edge of every step, grinding the carpet to glass on which we'd lose our grip.
The new stairs were our new toy,
the descent to an odd extension,
four new rooms at flood level in a sunken garden- a wing dislocated from a hive. Young bees with soft stripes and borderless nights,
we'd so far been squared away in a twin-set of bunkbeds, so tight-knit,
my brother and I once woke up finishing a conversation begun in a dream.
It had been the simplest exchange,
one I'd give much to return to:
the greetings of shadows unsurprised at having met beneath the trees and happy to set off again, alone,
back into the dark.

THE FALLING CITY
I was eight, I was atmosphere,
more than willing to take to the air.
The world was locked and clear.

For a moment the glass forgave me,
curved like a hand that absolutely loved me, let me down so gently.

© Lavinia Greenlaw, 2003
Foreword © 2005 by Edward Hirsch

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
UK PRAISE FOR LAVINIA GREENLAW
"Everything Greenlaw touches glitters and resonates, her discipline and skill allowing her to be serious, soulful, knockabout, funny and down-right strange in the course of a few lines."-VOGUE

"Her work is . . . lingeringly memorable for the way it combines an excited way of thinking with a calm way of looking." -ANDREW MOTION , THE OBSERVER

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