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...
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Open Shutters

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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.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Open Shutters (2003)
“[Salter] . . . challenges us with the discovery that something lucid, forthright, and fantastically undisheveled might also be sublime.”
–Stephen Metcalf, New York Times Book Review

“Salter . . . performs with deep pleasure and arresting artistry the paired arts of avid observation and the transformation of hectic experience into crystalline images, golden threads of narrative, and startling extrapolations . . Salter’s moves are so precise and gravity-defying, so astonishingly eloquent, the exhilarated reader feels as though she’s watching a gymnast perform intricate, risky, and unpredictable sequences, nailing each one perfectly.
–Donna Seaman, Booklist

“A mature poet at the top of her form. . . Delightful.”
–Rochelle Ratner, Library Journal

A Kiss in Space (1999)
“The book of poetry I loved best this year was A Kiss in Space, full of moving adventurous work.”
–Les Murray, Times Literary Supplement

"These are poems of breathtaking elegance: in formal control, in intellectual subtlety, in learning lightly displayed."
–Carolyn Kizer

Sunday Skaters (1994)
“A beautiful book, a major phase in the career of an important poet . . . In these poems a quality of close but apparently effortless observation is backed up by a strong and deep moral sense.”
–Henry Taylor
Unfinished Painting (1989)
“Mary Jo Salter’s work embodies the marriage of superb craftsmanship to the tragic sense of reality, which is the formula of true poetry.”
–Joseph Brodsky
Henry Purcell in Japan (1985)
“A poetry full of alertness, tact, credible feeling, and an unforced gaiety of form . . . For all her modesty of tone, she has a range of awareness and response, which, in a time when much poetry has shrunk to the merely personal, is refreshingly large.”
–Richard Wilbur

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307539366
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/13/2013
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 96
  • File size: 2 MB

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.


From the Hardcover edition.
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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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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