The Marriage in the Trees

The Marriage in the Trees

by Stanley Plumly, Stan Plumly
     
 

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Many of the poems in The Marriage in the Trees, Stanley Plumly's sixth book of poetry, concern the passing of the author's parents. They have the power of the deeply personal, and are clearly, in their wisdom and mastery of form and language, the work of a mature poet, one of our finest. Images of trees and birds dominate these poems. Birds—owls, doves

Overview

Many of the poems in The Marriage in the Trees, Stanley Plumly's sixth book of poetry, concern the passing of the author's parents. They have the power of the deeply personal, and are clearly, in their wisdom and mastery of form and language, the work of a mature poet, one of our finest. Images of trees and birds dominate these poems. Birds—owls, doves, crows, and cardinals—whether remembered from childhood or spotted in a rain shower at Union Square, frequently inspire Plumly's lyrical meditations. They serve as symbols of the vitality at the abrupt edges of life. Trees—losing their leaves in the autumn, blooming in the spring, providing wood for both a home as well as a casket and cover from exposure—stand watch over these poems as they do over the life around us, symbols of permanence amid the transience of life. "They/link the past, medieval to modern/the leaves still dark in summer, bronze and butter through hundreds of falls and winters./They're what's left of a larger thing." Memory, history, and family are powerful presences here, the past infusing the present with questions and with meaning. The Marriage in the Trees advances Stanley Plumly's standing as one of our strongest and most accomplished lyric poets.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Arguably a shade lighter in tone than 1989's Boy on the Step (LJ 10/15/89), Plumly's sixth collection of lyric poems nevertheless sustains the air of melancholy his readers have come to expect; trees are "gothic with winter," a neighbor seems "boiled at birth/ in anger," and the streets harbor characters out of Fellini ("Dwarf with Violin"). When Plumly considers nature he approaches it on human terms, as metaphor ("The sycamore made maps of disappearance"), as literary creation rather than thing-in-itself. He shares with Keats-an explicit if ghostly presence here-and the Romantics the assumption that other living things possess an unknowable wisdom we can only appreciate intuitively. Peering into the invisible, the poet tries to fathom the patterns and forces to which all things submit. Earthy, edgy, and ethereal, these poems speak with dignity and simplicity; they collude with our fleeting senses of presence and absence, jar us when necessary, but at times strive to formulate the questions whose answers have no end.-Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780880015462
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
12/28/1998
Pages:
108
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.27(d)

Read an Excerpt

Woman on Twenty-Second Eating Berries

She's not angry exactly but all business,
eating them right off the tree, with confidence,
the kind that lets her spit out the bad ones
clear of the sidewalk into the street. It's
sunny, though who can tell what she's tasting,
rowan or one of the serviceberries —
the animal at work, so everybody,
save the traffic, keeps a distance. She's picking
clean what the birds have left, and even,
in her hurry, a few dark leaves. In the air
the dusting of exhaust that still turns pennies
green, the way the cloudy surfaces
of things obscure their differences,
like the mock orange or the apple rose that
cracks the paving stone, rooted in the plaza.
No one will say your name, and when you come to
the door no one will know you, a parable
of the afterlife on earth. Poor grapes, poor crabs,
wild black cherry trees, on which some forty-six
or so species of birds have fed, some boy's dead
weight or the tragic summer lightning killing
the seed, how boyish now that hunger
to bring those branches down to scale,
to eat of that which otherwise was waste,
how natural this woman eating berries, how alone.

Meet the Author

Stanley Plumly was born in Barnesville, Ohio, in 1939, and grew up in the lumber and farming regions of Virginia and Ohio. His work has been honored with the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award and nominations for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and the Academy of Amerian Poets' Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. He is currently a Distinguished University Professor and Professor of English at the University of Maryland.

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