Questions of Love: New and Selected Poems

Overview

“...This time, and in a very different place, the poet ventures upon a much more perilous dig, framing an archeology of the self which requires not only testimony but evidence, not only comment but construction. She disinters along ‘boundaries of pain’ which Dickinson, her surest mentor, identifies as ‘capacious as the sea.’ Great accuracy and great tenacity were required to write these poems,in which a significant amount of going under is…undergone. Readers, as well as the writer, must ‘in the destructive element immerse’; but by trusting
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Overview

“...This time, and in a very different place, the poet ventures upon a much more perilous dig, framing an archeology of the self which requires not only testimony but evidence, not only comment but construction. She disinters along ‘boundaries of pain’ which Dickinson, her surest mentor, identifies as ‘capacious as the sea.’ Great accuracy and great tenacity were required to write these poems,in which a significant amount of going under is…undergone. Readers, as well as the writer, must ‘in the destructive element immerse’; but by trusting Lesser’s method (relentless questioning, dogged reversion to the charge, ironic skepticism as the prolegomenon to any future therapeutics) even as she follows her great predecessor in evidential texts, we ascend with her into radiance....”—Richard Howard on Rika Lesser’s work
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Lesser has become an important translator from German and Swedish; this first Selected Poems from the New York-based writer (All We Need of Hell) often shows her thinking about translation-living and thinking in more than one language, travel and how to approach a work of art. On the one hand, "Language/ study, first of all, means commitment/ to rules, keeping oneself within lines,/ not reading between them"; on the other, translation can bring "someone else's voice:/ Ringing and lucid, whispered, distant, true." Lesser's attention to prior art includes not just the poems of Rainer Maria Rilke and Gunnar Ekelof, but also modern figurative paintings: her strongest new poems, a sequence titled "The Girls," describe a disturbing set of canvases by Lena Cronqvist, in which Lesser sees alternate selves and prays: "May they keep/ their heads-balanced... smiling heavenward." The earliest poems reflect her undergraduate years at Yale, and her debts to the confessional poetry of the 1970s; the latest describe the old age of Lesser's mother, the end of a transcontinental romance and the memory of mental illness, all in stark, disarming, sometimes plain, lines: "You mentioned ex-/ ploring Vienna's ex-/ pat community I/ fell silent Protected/ from you by my mother/ until she dies." (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781931357609
  • Publisher: Sheep Meadow Press, The
  • Publication date: 11/28/2008
  • Pages: 175
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

RIKA LESSER is the author of three earlier collections of poetry, Etruscan Things (1983), All We Need of Hell (1995), and Growing Back (1997). She has been the recipient of the Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholarship, fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Translation Prize of the Swedish Academy.
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Table of Contents

Questions of Love

Questions of Love, Reconsidered

Prologue: On Love 5

I Falling 6

II Taking Sides 7

III Later 8

IV Solitude 9

V Thirst 11

VI Players 12

VII Shift 14

VIII To Love Now 15

IX Break Time 18

X Att den fernen Geliebten or Care, Revisited 21

XI Unheimlich 24

XII Quartet 26

Envoy: Christmas Present, 2005 28

About Her

About Her 33

Surviving Parent 37

Opposite Corners 39

Around Midnight 42

Second Childhood 44

To Autumn 45

The Girls

To Lena 49

Possession 50

At the Sea 51

The Ice, The Road, The Hedge 52

Daddy's Girl 55

With Poppies 56

Coronation 57

Operation 58

In a Bottle 60

Standing Meditation 62

Self-Portraits: Reflections - Letters to Lena 64

Selected Poems

First Poems: 1972-1974

The News & The Weather 73

Let's throw it out the window 75

Persons of Prognostication 76

Your Speech 84

The Room 85

Ein Geliebtes: The Body of the Work 88

Rika Lesser 91

Blueprints and Monuments: 1974-1983

The Gifts 97

Departures 100

Growing Back 103

Vaeroy 106

Translation 108

Losses 109

Under the Roof 112

527 Cathedral Parkway 114

536 Saratoga Avenue 116

Menorah 118

Under the Weather 119

Eight Days a Week 121

Can Zone Or the Good Food Guide 124

All We Need, and More: 1986-1992

Black Stones I 129

Black Stones IV: (First Sight) 130

Black Stones VI: (Falling) 131

Matthew's Passion 133

Black Stones VIII: (And were You lost, I would be-) 135

For Elisabeth 137

White Stone 139

Love 141

Black Stones XII: (Care) 143

Black Stones XIV: (Past tense) 145

The Other Life 148

Pages Toward the Turn of the Year 153

September '92:Measures 166

Etruscan Things: 1978-1981

From Pars Dextra

A Handle on Things 171

The Warning 172

Sarcophagus 175

From Vetulonia 177

From Pars Sinistra

The Mummy Speaks 179

Hut Urn 182

Final Questions 183

Degli Sposi 185

Chronology and Notes 186

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