Open Shutters: Poems

Overview

Mary Jo Salter’s sparkling new collection, Open Shutters, leads us into a world where things are often not what they seem. In the first poem, “Trompe l’Oeil,” the shadow-casting shutters on Genoese houses are made of paint only, an “open lie.” And yet “Who needs to be correct / more often than once a day? / Who needs real shadow more than play?”

Open Shutters also calls to mind the lens of a camera—in the villanelle “School Pictures” or in the stirring sequence “In the ...

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Overview

Mary Jo Salter’s sparkling new collection, Open Shutters, leads us into a world where things are often not what they seem. In the first poem, “Trompe l’Oeil,” the shadow-casting shutters on Genoese houses are made of paint only, an “open lie.” And yet “Who needs to be correct / more often than once a day? / Who needs real shadow more than play?”

Open Shutters also calls to mind the lens of a camera—in the villanelle “School Pictures” or in the stirring sequence “In the Guesthouse,” which, inspired by photographs of a family across three generations, offers at once a social history of America and a love story.

Darkness and light interact throughout the book—in poems about September 11; about a dog named Shadow; about a blind centenarian who still pretends to read the paper; about a woman shaken by the death of her therapist. A section of light verse highlights the wit and grace that have long distinguished Salter’s most serious work.

Fittingly, the volume fools the eye once more by closing with “An Open Book,” in which a Muslim family praying at a funeral seek consolation in the pages formed by their upturned palms.

Open Shutters
is the achievement of a remarkable poet, whose concerns and stylistic range continue to grow, encompassing ever larger themes, becoming ever more open.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
The book's finest poem is ''Another Session,'' an elegy for her old therapist, filled with sort-of sonnets that lead their way back to the moment when she last saw him. The poet is struggling to come to grips with the news of his death -- she finds out on Christmas Eve while casually scanning the church program's ''Flowers in Memory of'' list, and only discovers later he was hit by oncoming traffic while riding a bike. The poem strikes that remarkable balance between total revelation and gelid awkwardness that anyone who has done time on the couch knows well. And so it is with Salter's own poetry: how can a poetry of total formal composure contain Chernobyl, Hiroshima and now 9/11 without seeming maudlin or small? Open Shutters extends the question further, challenging us with the discovery that something lucid, forthright and fantastically undisheveled might also be sublime. — Stephen Metcalf
Publishers Weekly
In her fifth collection over nearly 20 years, Mary Jo Salter takes in "TWA 800," "School Pictures," "The Big Sleep," "Peonies" and many other joys and disasters through Open Shutters. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This fifth collection presents a mature poet at the top of her form. Salter comes with pristine credentials-a former poetry editor of the New Republic and vice president of the Poetry Society of America, she has had poems published in Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, and similar magazines. Technically, her poems are delightful. The problem is that too many pieces get so caught up in metrics and rhyme that they never probe (or reveal) a deeper emotional content. There are exceptions that alone make the book worth reading, such as "TWA 800" (about finding a postcard delivered months after the crash), "On the Wing" (a masterly love poem written in ghazal couplets), and "The Big Sleep" (a wonderfully sensual portrait of husband and wife in bed, reading): "But soon we slide, lock, side to side/ my stomach to his back,/ like continents buckling/ over rumpled waters. " Recommended for larger collections.-Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400040087
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/13/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 8.77 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Jo Salter was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and grew up in Detroit and Baltimore. She was educated at Harvard and Cambridge Universities and worked as a staff editor at The Atlantic Monthly and as poetry editor of The New Republic. A vice president of the Poetry Society of America, she is also a coeditor of The Norton Anthology of Poetry. In addition to her five poetry collections, she is the author of a children’s book, The Moon Comes Home. She is Emily Dickinson Senior Lecturer at Mount Holyoke College and lives with her family in Amherst, Massachusetts.

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Read an Excerpt

TROMPE-L’OEIL

All over Genoa you see them: windows with open shutters.
Then the illusion shatters.

But that’s not true. You knew the shutters were merely painted on.
You knew it time and again.

The claim of the painted shutter that it ever shuts the eye of the window is an open lie.

You find its shadow-latches strike the wall at a single angle,
like the stuck hands of a clock.

Who needs to be correct more often than twice a day?
Who needs real shadow more than play?

Inside the house, an endless supply of clothes to wash.
On an outer wall it’s fresh

paint hung out to dry–
shirttails flapping on a frieze unruffled by any breeze,

like the words pinned to this line.
And the foreign word is a lie:
that second “l” in “l’oeil”

which only looks like an “l,” and is silent.

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Table of Contents

Trompe l'Oeil 3
The Accordionist 5
Advent 8
The Reader 11
The Newspaper Room 12
TWA 800 14
Erasers 15
Tanker 17
Glasses 20
Hare 21
In the Guesthouse 23
Night Thoughts 30
Snowed-on Snowman 31
Deliveries Only 37
School Pictures 39
A Morris Dance 40
Office Hours 42
The Big Sleep 45
Another Session 49
For Emily at Fifteen 56
Midsummer, Georgia Avenue 58
Snowbirds 59
Florida Fauna 61
Discovery 62
Double Takes 64
Shadow 65
Peonies 67
On the Wing 68
Crystal Ball 69
After September 73
An Open Book 76
Acknowledgements 79
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