Modern Life

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Overview

Matthea Harvey's Modern Life introduces a new voice that tries to exist in the gray area between good and evil, love and hate. In the central sequences, "The Future of Terror" and "The Terror of the Future," Harvey imagines citizens and soldiers at the end of their wits at the impending end of the world. Her prose pieces and lyrics examine the divided, halved self in poems about centaurs, ship figureheads, and a robot boy. Throughout, Harvey's signature wit and concision show us the double-sided nature of ...

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Overview

Matthea Harvey's Modern Life introduces a new voice that tries to exist in the gray area between good and evil, love and hate. In the central sequences, "The Future of Terror" and "The Terror of the Future," Harvey imagines citizens and soldiers at the end of their wits at the impending end of the world. Her prose pieces and lyrics examine the divided, halved self in poems about centaurs, ship figureheads, and a robot boy. Throughout, Harvey's signature wit and concision show us the double-sided nature of reality, of what we see and what we know.

Finalist for the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Matthea Harvey's vision of America is spooky, apocalyptic, and beautiful: proof that there is wonder in even a dark time like ours." --George Saunders

Praise for Sad Little Breathing Machine:

"Harvey is a master of the surprising, illuminating connection --the cognitive jump-cut . . . There is something of the Martian about Harvey . . . her disjunctions, reversals and bizarreries arise from her inquiry into the strangeness of sentience itself--how odd it is to think, feel and look." --Chicago Tribune

Publishers Weekly

The verse and prose poems of this third collection by Harvey is rife with her signature wit ("the factory puffs its own set of clouds"), darkened by an ominous sense of fearfulness in a post-9/11 world, which the poems' seeming levity tries to combat. The backbone of the collection is a pair of sequences-titled "The Future of Terror" and "Terror of the Future"-that explore those two increasingly loaded words using a clever alphabetical system with surprisingly haunting results: "We were just a gumdrop on the grid." Prose poems bookending the sequences present a fable about a lonely robot ("When Robo-Boy feels babyish, he has the option of really reverting"); a study of appetite ("Ma gave Dinna' Pig his name so that no-one would forget where that pig was headed"); an explanation of how the impossibility of mind-reading led to love ("Even when they press their ears or mouths or noses together, the skull wall is still in the way"); and an unlikely dinner ritual ("rip the silhouette from the sky and drag it inside"). A few short, lineated poems punctuate the blocks of prose: "World, I'm no one/ to complain about you." Harvey continues to match her unique sensibility with subjects that matter; her poems are both empathic and delightful. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

America is at war, and while we at home are conscious of it, most of us know little of what the troops experience in the heat of battle. In "The Future of Terror," the first sequence of her third collection (after Sad Little Breathing Machine), Harvey utilizes the beauty of poetry to paint diverse impacts of war not limited to death and destruction: e.g., "sometimes I ducked when someone hiccupped." Equally as enveloping is the second sequence, "Terror of the Future." A foil for the former, the latter collection tells the story of hope, loss, and love-it is the "after" in "happily ever after." Harvey's creativity is best exploited in these series, but the pieces in between also find their places, especially shorter works like the simplistically profound, "A Theory of Generations": "You're it/You're it/You're it." The opening poems may be daunting to some readers-they seem rather bizarre and require an elevated level of thinking-but once Harvey hits her stride, she keeps readers intrigued. Recommended for academic and public libraries.
—Ashanti L. White

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555974800
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 10/2/2007
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 1,395,234
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Matthea Harvey is the author of Sad Little Breathing Machine and Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form. She is a contributing editor at jubilat and Bomb, and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in Brooklyn.

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Read an Excerpt

There was one shot left in my rifle.
I polished my plimsolls.
I wrapped myself in a quilt.
So this is how you live in the present.
--from "The Future of Terror"

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