Same Life: Poems

Overview

From the alphabet inscribed in our DNA to the stars that once told stories, Same Life maps a cosmos both intricate and vast. In her first full-length book of poems, Maureen N. McLane has written a beautifully sensual and moving work, full of passion and sadness and humor and understanding. Erotically charged lyrics conjure a latter-day Sappho; major sequences explore citizenship and sexuality, landscape and history, moving us from Etruscan ruins to video porn, ushering us through cities, gardens, lakefronts, and ...

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Overview

From the alphabet inscribed in our DNA to the stars that once told stories, Same Life maps a cosmos both intricate and vast. In her first full-length book of poems, Maureen N. McLane has written a beautifully sensual and moving work, full of passion and sadness and humor and understanding. Erotically charged lyrics conjure a latter-day Sappho; major sequences explore citizenship and sexuality, landscape and history, moving us from Etruscan ruins to video porn, ushering us through cities, gardens, lakefronts, and airplanes. Here are poems equally alert to shifts in weather and cracks in consciousness; here is a poet equally at home with delicate song and vivid polemic. Same Life evokes an American life in transit, shareable yet singular; singable, ponderable, erotic; an unpredictable venture in twenty-first-century soul-making.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Reading Maureen McLane’s Same Life is like discovering Francois Truffaut’s first films: this is an exhilarating, brilliant poet whose smart earlier essays prepared the ground. The best poems here are something new in the world, from gorgeous lyrics like ‘I wanted to crawl inside a middle voice’ or ‘Populating Heaven’ or ‘There is a place in the world’ or ‘Core Samples’ to the nervy pyrotechnics of ‘Excursion Susan Sontag.’ Luminous fragments—the shattered mirror that everywhere reflects a light-filled ungraspable whole—McLane makes into a new way of possessing the world. This is a thrilling first book.” —Frank Bidart
Publishers Weekly

McLane (who teaches at Harvard) has built up a national reputation as a critic and reviewer, and this debut showcases a poet who is always clear if sometimes terse or challenging, often allusive, yet open about her own life, McLane's spare free verse, splayed out across the page, draws on such seemingly antithetical resources as Grace Paley and Ezra Pound, the New York painter Philip Guston, Lorine Niedecker, the fragments of Sappho (the basis for one sharp sequence) and the resources of contemporary slang: "we video'd our way from thing/ to thang to thong." "Catechism"-among McLane's more serious poems-warns "The place I live is only sometimes shareable thus weeping." If McLane's poems, with their white spaces and their clipped phrases, sometimes seem too fragmentary, too much like ordinary speech, often enough their rough edges turn out to be part of a careful design. Alert to tragic truths and to comic moments, politics in America and in France, urban life and country retreats, McLane concludes with what may be her strongest suit: tough-minded eroticism: "do I still turn to them the dead/ who speak in type the way sun bursts between the legs those days/ a tongue moves so." (Sept.)

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Library Journal

The poems in this first collection focus on wide-ranging subjects: love, citizenship, our consumer lifestyles, even the process of writing itself. Strongest are the love poems, particularly "After Sappho V," which records a failed relationship: "you led so many/onward and if when they arrived/they found themselves/alone, aflame-//...why blame the fire/for its damage?" McLane has a keen eye for everyday objects, as when "Jargon of experts washes o'er the perfectly stacked Special/K, Cheerios, Wheaties, Apple Jacks and Count Chocula," and she composes with humor: "we video'd our way from thing/to thang to thong." Some poems don't live up to the promise of their titles (e.g., "Excursion Susan Sontag"), others use simplistic rhymes ("what am I/if I lie//below the earth/below the sky), and several poems critiquing our leaders and lifestyles can sound too shrill. Granted, political poetry is extremely hard to do well, and McLane does take chances and push her poems in new directions. The poems that enchant most are short, use everyday language, and have metaphors that ring true: "grass the blades'/imprint/my cheek/my thigh." We see the physical world and relish it. Recommended for most collections.
—Doris Lynch

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374165338
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 9/2/2008
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Maureen N. McLane’s essays on poetry and contemporary culture have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major venues. She teaches at New York University.

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Table of Contents

Were fragments enough... 3

Unmeasured the white... 5

Catechism 6

Never so free... 8

After guston 9

Catches for Robert Duncan 10

The Daily Failures... 11

After sappho

I Some say... 12

II I would rather see... 13

III Neither the women of the city rising... 14

IV It's true the charm may lie... 15

V And you / whom I will likely never see... 16

In my head a little groove... 18

From Mz N: the serial 19

Regional 31

The special stasis of august... 32

Poem 33

Citizens 35

Letter from Paris 38

Report 42

This is the worst country... 44

Pitigliano 45

The sun slips below... 46

Saratoga 47

The sex of the stars... 48

Songs of a season 49

Stars arranging... 55

After guston II 59

Tenancy 60

MAYAKOVSKY at High Table 62

Terrible things are happening / in Russian novels! ... 64

My dearest Lavinia... 66

To a poet renowned for a certain sensualism 67

Spatchcocked 69

Excursion Susan Sontag 71

Populating Heaven 79

There is a place... 81

At the end, a door 82

Lying face / down... 89

Syntax 90

Song 91

Early music at the coffee shop 92

I wanted to crawl inside a middle voice... 95

Mist lowering the scrim... 96

Symphony / in the air... 97

Notational / sufficiency... 98

Cumuli gathering low... 99

Was he right the poet... 100

Same view... 101

Core Samples

When I met you I was eighteen... 102

Those were the years... 103

It was under the spell of Yeats... 103

You I never fell in love with... 104

I never made you breakfast... 105

Sad in bed you read Horace... 106

Do I still turn to them... 107

In the end a windblown woman am I... 108

Envoi 109

Notes 111

Acknowledgments 113

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