The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans

Overview


This compelling book takes its title from Samuel Beckett's Ohio Impromptu. In Beckett's play, a grieving beloved seeks relief from the haunting presence of a departed lover in a place where "From its single window he could see the downstream extremity of the Isle of Swans." With a bow to Beckett's style and linguistic playfulness, Mary Jo Bang's collection of poems deals compassionately and gracefully with the tangible world.

Bang's savvy alliterative insistence sweeps the ...

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Overview


This compelling book takes its title from Samuel Beckett's Ohio Impromptu. In Beckett's play, a grieving beloved seeks relief from the haunting presence of a departed lover in a place where "From its single window he could see the downstream extremity of the Isle of Swans." With a bow to Beckett's style and linguistic playfulness, Mary Jo Bang's collection of poems deals compassionately and gracefully with the tangible world.

Bang's savvy alliterative insistence sweeps the reader along, as her poems collectively offer a world delicately structured from memorable fragments of experience, emotion, things, and places--inside and outside the human psyche.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"In The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans, the O's of fruit, time, and heavenly bodies cohere in sight and in light, and the heartbreaking yearning, 'the impulse to speak,' is over and over again the Don Quixote of gestures, keeping relationships at once glued and unstuck. The book culminates in a rhapsodic braiding of childhood images of a downscrabble upbringing, and a moving evocation of the ambivalence between the frivolity of speech and its absolute necessity. A deeply resonant book."--Susan Wheeler

"Mary Jo Bang's poetry is vivacious and at the same time mysterious. Its surface glitters with the sparkle that the brightest American writing has always given off, and in the depths it reveals a mixture of smoky, quirky complexities, a blend that is hers alone. Characters are driven to distress or exuberance by the fate she has prepared for them—their stories bloom on the page, ripen strangely, and quickly disappear. I love it."--John Tranter, editor of Jacket Magazine

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Product Details

Meet the Author


Mary Jo Bang is also the author of Apology for Want, Louise in Love, Elegy, and The Bride of E. Elegy was awarded the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award and was listed as a 2008 Notable Book by the New York Times. She has received a Discovery/The Nation Award, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University. She teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.
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Read an Excerpt

From Complications of MorningHere we have the blankness of endings, the vague dismantling of the semi-luminosity. Here we have demi-daily, the risk of repression. Here we have a hand at the back in a palpable parable of fate.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Pear and O, an Opera 3
The Novel in Three Chapters 6
Girls Dress Well to Stave Off Chaos 9
Packing the Heart 10
A Tour of the March Equinox 11
When April Was Beginning, and End 12
This Supposed Alchemy 13
A Foot Hooked 14
Stone, Montana 15
It's Winter in the Eye, and Like Ophelia 16
The Year Chases Its Tail 17
Head-Heavy on Its Snakestalk, the Tulip 18
Day Two of a New Bear 19
Complications of Morning 20
It Says, I Did So 21
In the Book of All That's Befallen 22
The Era 23
The End, and Sometime Later 24
The Beauties of Nature 25
The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans 27
The Harbor 31
River Up, Rising 32
On the Subject of Conjuring 33
When Meeting Beauty 34
When the Weather Changes to Warm, the Boys Drive Shirtless 35
The Cracked Jar Called Can It Be Taught? 36
To Dance the Tarantella 37
In a Spacious Chamber 38
The Constant Bride 40
A Case of Asymmetry 41
The Mouth in Clarity 42
Small Hospital for the Insane 43
On This Late Stage 44
The What Within 45
Poem 46
Crossed-Over, Fiend-Snitched, X-ed Out 47
Death and the Maiden 49
Speech Is Designed to Persuade 50
Begin Here 52
Given to Believe 53
Origin of the Impulse to Speak 57
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