This ninth collection of poetry finds Lauterbach doing what she does best, anchoring her roving eye and associative thinking among the banalities and raptures of a mature urban life. If her banalities, often comically deployed, are sometimes merely that ("There are new blinds on the windows across the way"), her raptures, often in the form of physical description, can truly exhilarate and sound like no one else's: "as the sun sets, tiny distinctions appear among luminosities, sky, river, car, white fence, yellow lights of passing cars, pale stone of the graves." Less rhapsodic than usual, Lauterbach may apologize for "not making meaning," but when she does make it, she reveals a gift for impeccably phrased insight: "one falls in love/ with the condition of hope// and falls out of love with its/ cruel replacement, hope...." Highlights of the book include its title poem, a breathtaking, understated 14-part elegy, and the centerpiece, "Alice in the Wasteland," a playful semiotic dialogue that finds Carroll's Alice interrogated by an impersonal "Voice" as she wanders through Eliot's labyrinth of dysfunction. Intelligent but no less deeply feeling, this collection confirms Lauterbach's position as one of the most highly principled and tirelessly innovative poets writing today. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Or to Begin Againby Ann Lauterbach
Ann Lauterbach's ninth work of poetry, Or to Begin Again, takes its name from a sixteen-poem elegy that resists its own end, as it meditates on the nearness of specific attachment and loss against the mute background of historical forces in times of war. In the center of the book is a twelve-part narrative, "Alice in the Wasteland,"inspired by Lewis Carroll's great character and T.S. Eliot's 1922 modernist poem. Alice is accosted by an invisible Voice as she wanders and wonders about the nature of language in relation to perception. In this volume, Lauterbach again shows the range of her formal inventiveness, demonstrating the visual dynamics of the page in tandem with the powerful musical cadences and imagery of a contemporary master.
"Let us,/ among the/ constancy/ of living/ and its/ images/ begin." These words, embedded within the funnel/tornado/cyclone shapes of the brilliant poem "Alice in the Wasteland" (a spin-off from Carroll and Eliot) are at the heart of MacArthur Fellow Lauterbach's book. The poems here are, like Lauterbach's Alice, searching for clues in the rubble of a postmodern lexicon: "Everything is suspended but changing, she thought." There is darkness-"soiled, possibly bloody," and filled with "cries/ of the suddenly dying." Yet while elegy plays its part, this book is also filled with witty variation and wordplay. The long title poem is inventive in form but ultimately unsuccessful; mostly the poems act like maps of fractals on the page, and one danger is that they can sometimes seem like solipsistic singing in the shower-accomplished, well intentioned, acoustically gifted, but a self-to-self chorale all the same. Still, as Emerson said, nothing is perfect but the hope of it, and anyone interested in how language both enables (ennobles) and prevents us from engaging our world will have much to mull here. Recommended for contemporary collections.
Meet the Author
Ann Lauterbach is Ruth and David Schwab III Professor of Language and Literature at Bard College. Her work has received fellowship support from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine C. MacArthur Foundation. She has published six collections of poetry, including If in Time: Selected Poems 1975-2000.
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Lauterbach's piercing intelligence-full of dry wit, deft insight and patience in calamity-is exactly why we read books.