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Springing: New and Selected Poems

Springing: New and Selected Poems

by Marie Ponsot

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From the award-winning author of The Bird Catcher, this life-spanning volume offers the delight of both discovery and re-discovery, as Ponsot tends the unruly garden of her mind with her customary care and passion. The book opens with a group of new poems, including “What Would You Like to Be When You Grow Up?”—a question that has kept Ponsot&


From the award-winning author of The Bird Catcher, this life-spanning volume offers the delight of both discovery and re-discovery, as Ponsot tends the unruly garden of her mind with her customary care and passion. The book opens with a group of new poems, including “What Would You Like to Be When You Grow Up?”—a question that has kept Ponsot’s work vital for more than five decades. Throughout the selections from her four earlier books and a trove of previously unpublished work covering the years 1946 to 1971, she offers us a “lost haven in a springing world.” Sometimes sharp in her self-perception, but always listing toward pleasure and elegance, unafraid of grief and the passage of time, Ponsot continually refreshes her language and the spirited self from which it emerges.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Marie Ponsot's poetic achievement is fiercely independent. A courageous eloquence is sustained throughout her work, as she mounts up what Emerson called 'the stairway of surprise.'"
---Harold Bloom

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly
"If leaf-trash chokes the stream bed, reach for rock-bottom as you rake the muck out," writes Ponsot in one of the 26 new poems of this collection, and the lines might well serve as its wry motto. Springing takes readers on a tour of a quirky, start-stop career, presenting, along with the new work, nine poems from True Minds (1956), 22 from Admit Impediment (1981), 26 from The Green Dark (1988), 19 from The Bird Catcher (which won the 1998 NBCC Award) and 26 other previously uncollected poems from 1948 to 1971. The 25-year pause in book publication would seem to reflect a period of domestic life, documented in the uncollected work ("watching you strike worldly poses flirting excited with someone's arch French wife") and ending in "For a Divorce," which opens the Admit Impediment section: "Asked why we ever married, I smile and mention the arbitrary fierce glance of the working artist that blazed sometimes in your face but can't picture it." Ponsot's poems are built around just such unflinching observations of intimate interactions and misfires, whether of familial relations ventriloquized through updated Greek dramatis personae, a French woman's accommodation of her mother's married lover or the self's castings about the natural world, "space recast as flatness, long diminishings of blue borne lightly." If the new and uncollected work doesn't have the focus of the trio of books beginning in the '80s, this selection evinces the larger-scale, muckraking pursuit of artifice's underside that Ponsot's speaker so wonderfully produces poem by poem, "smaller and more human than belief." As she writes in "Gliding": "I envision the next leap, the next thousand years of practice, the eventual skill become like independent flight, habitual." Readers will look forward to those practice sessions. (Mar. 19) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Even when they appear simple, Ponsot's poems can be difficult; they require both an attentive mind and a sharp ear. Her language is daring and playful, a challenge and a delight: "What would it be to be water, one body of water/ (what water is is another mystery)." In more than 50 years of writing, few subjects seem to have eluded Ponsot's attention. Here are poems of fable and history, of social and intellectual concern, but the strongest work by far is the personal: "What women wander?/ Not many. All. A few./ Most would, now & then,/ & no wonder./ Some, and I'm one,/ Wander sitting still." Ponsot's poetry is elegiac without shadowy regret. This is the thoughtful, and sometimes unsettling, work of one of the more powerful poets of this tempestuous generation, and the current collection is a chance to chart her fascinating evolution. Ponsot won the National Book Critics Circle Award for her previous collection, The Bird Catcher (1998). Her latest would be a strong addition to any contemporary poetry collection. Louis McKee, Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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5.88(w) x 8.33(h) x 0.63(d)

Read an Excerpt


In a skiff on a sunrisen lake we are watchers.

Swimming aimlessly is luxury, just as walking
Loudly up a shallow stream is.

As we lean over the deep well, we whisper.

Friends at hearths are drawn to the one warm air;
stranger meet on beaches drawn to the one wet sea.

What wd it be to be water, one body of water
(what water is is another mystery). (We are water divided.) It wd be a self without walls,
with surface tension, specific gravity, a local exchange between bedrock and cloud of falling and rising,
rising to fall, falling to rise.

Old Jokes Appreciate

Up the long stairs I run stumbling, expectant.
Impatience is hopelessly desperate. Hope takes time.

Sort out the private from the personal.
Advance on losses at a decent pace.

"Aside from all that, Mrs. Lincoln,
how did you like the play?"


The skull or shell or wall of bone shaped with its egg advantages does not advertise

the gardens it contains,
the marriages, the furies,
or the city it shelters
(clangs, clouds, silences,
found souls crowding,
big dank cans where things putrify)

or the glade it hides for us to hide in, where
—our lives eased open—
we drowse by the pond and wake beside ourselves with thirst,
where (dipping the cup we find)
we get of necessity a drink of some depth full of taste and original energy.

The darling face,
the fragrant chevelure,
even the beautiful ears on the shell do not boast about the workplace inside.

They prefer to appear to agree they are just along for the ride.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Marie Ponsot’s first book of poems was True Minds (1956); later books are Admit Impediment (1981) and The Green Dark (1988). She is a native New Yorker who has enjoyed teaching at Queens College, Beijing United University, the Poetry Center of the YMHA, New York University, and Columbia University. Among her awards are an NEA Creative Writing grant, the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize, and the Shaughnessy Medal of the Modern Language Association. Ponsot’s most recent collection, The Bird Catcher, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry in 1998.

From the Hardcover edition.

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