No Heaven (Pitt Poetry Series)

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Alicia Suskin Ostriker's voice has long been acknowledged as a major force in American poetry. In No Heaven, her eleventh collection, she takes a hint from John Lennon's "Imagine" to wrestle with the world as it is: "no hell below us, / above us only sky."

It is a world of cities, including New York, London, Jerusalem, and Berlin, where the poet can celebrate pickup basketball, peace marches, and the energy of graffiti. It is also a world of families, generations coming and going, of love, love affairs, and friendship. Then it is a world full of art and music, of Rembrandt and Bonnard, Mozart and Brahms. Finally, it is a world haunted by violence and war. No Heaven rises to a climax with elegies for Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated by an Israeli zealot, and for the poet's mother, whose death is experienced in the context of a post-9/11 impulse to destroy that seems to seduce whole nations.

Yet Ostriker's ultimate stance is to "Try to praise the mutilated world," as the poet Adam Zagajewski has counseled. At times lyric, at times satiric, Ostriker steadfastly pursuesin No Heaven her poetics of ardor, a passion for the here and now that has chastened and consoled her many devoted readers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A long-prominent poet and feminist critic (Stealing the Language), Ostriker further plumbs subjects of previous work: sectarian violence, urban geography, family history, easel painting, and Jewish identity.  If Ostriker sacrifices verbal nuance for moral clarity, she nonetheless makes her persona and views appealingly present on every page.”
Publishers Weekly

“Edgy, erotic, funny, and ornery. . . .Ostriker’s tonic poems remind us that although we are the animal that kills out of rage and greed, we are also creatures of grace and harmony.” 

"In No Heaven Alicia Ostriker is at the top of her form. The poems ‘hang in the air like Nijinsky taking a nap’—no need of heaven when the living can perform such feats."

—Diane Middlebrook

“Ostriker’s poems connect to the reader—and to one another—to deliver a owerful and complex story. ‘No Heaven’ offers lots of reading experiences that you don’t expect when you pick up a book of poetry. The poems are alternately beautiful, startling and perceptive. But reading through the breadth of Ostriker’s work, you will find that her poetry gains momentum, following upon itself with nuanced skill, successive poems building to deliver a message  more complex than any single poem.”


"As attentive to injustice as it is to the varieties of the sensual life, No Heaven is evidence of a deep engagement with what it means and feels like to be a person of high consciousness in the early twenty-first century. This is a lover’s book; that is, a book by someone who loves people enough to show all their sides, and the world enough to be furious with it. It gives us Ostriker at her most capacious."

—Stephen Dunn

"No Heaven is Ostriker at her best. The elegiac poems that sing to her dead mother and characterize an eroding America as ‘this moon-shaped blankness’ are deeply compelling."

—Maxine Kumin

Publishers Weekly
A long-prominent poet and feminist critic (Stealing the Language), Ostriker further plumbs subjects of previous work: sectarian violence, urban geography, family history, easel painting and Jewish identity. If Ostriker sacrifices verbal nuance for moral clarity, she nonetheless makes her persona and views appealingly present on every page. Clean, unambiguous lines (reminiscent of Robert Pinsky's) present her speaker as an explainer, a bringer of news: "Sometimes I feel like a mailman who faithfully visits each door in his district,/ Sometimes like a mermaid out of water." Ambivalent poems about New York, Jerusalem and Berlin praise "days when to walk a city/ is like feeling completely healed." A group of poems responds to major works of Eastern and Western painting and classical music, like Botticelli's, Mozart's and Bonnard's "mysteries of domestic/ Life in the modern void." Ostriker has achieved recent prominence with nonfiction devoted to Jewish experience, and she ends with an emphasis there; a final set of ambitious longer poems juxtaposes a history of suffering, recent events in Israel, the Iraq war and the travails of the poet's mother. "Where did she go, my hopeful young mother/ My mother who promised we would overcome/ The bosses and bigots?" Ostriker concludes: "I want her// To come back and try again." (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822958758
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005
  • Series: Pitt Poetry Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.88 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Alicia Suskin Ostriker’s previous collections of poetry include The Imaginary Lover, winner of the William Carlos Williams Award, and The Crack in Everything and The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, both National Book Award finalists. She has also received the Paterson Poetry Prize and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award. Of her five volumes of criticism, including Dancing at the Devil’s Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics, and the Erotic. She is professor of English at Rutgers University and teaches in the MFA program of New England College.

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Table of Contents

Vocation 3
Birdcall 7
Bus station 9
Correspondence 10
Brooklyn twilight 12
Pickup 13
One-minded 14
Liking it 16
Crosstown 18
Cigarettes 20
In the forty-fifth year of marriage 22
Running out the clock 24
Wilderness 26
The speech of the creature 27
What you cannot remember, what you cannot know 29
May rain, Princeton 30
Baby carriages 31
What is needed after food 32
City through which time rushes like water 34
Poem beginning with a line by Rumi 36
Normal light 41
Letter of inquiry 42
He gets depressed whenever we argue 44
The idea of making love 47
Another imaginary voyage 48
Extended sonnet 50
Misery and frustration 51
Mid-February 53
Coastal dawn 54
Wooden virgin with child 57
The kiss of Judas 58
The birth of Venus 60
Caravaggio : the painting of force and violence 66
RVR : work and love 69
Asylum : Corot at the Ville D'Avray 71
Homage to Redon 72
Bonnard retrospective 73
Cosi Fan Tutte : of desire and delight 75
Schumann Op. 16 : the greater happiness 78
Janacek, string quartet #I 80
Ravel piano trio 82
The Faure requiem 83
An album of Chinese fan painting 84
Squirrels 89
A walker in the city 90
A voice at the rally 94
Three women 95
The Othello sarabande, or : the occupation 98
Elegy for Allen 101
Tearing the poem up and eating it 103
Divrei 107
Fix 108
The window at the moment of flame 110
From the moon 111
Poem sixty years after Auschwitz 112
Hunger 114
Elegy before the war 117
Daffodils 126
Coda : into the street 131
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