They Can't Take That Away from Me / Edition 2

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In this series of new poems Gail Mazur takes stock-of the complexity of relationships between parents and children, the desires of the body as well as its frailties, the distinctions between memory and history, and the hope of art to capture these seemingly inscrutable realities. By turns mordant and passionate, narrative and meditative, Mazur's poems imply that life, with all of its losses, triumphs, and abrasive intimacies, is far richer and more elaborately metaphorical than poetry can aspire to be-and yet her poems do affectingly recreate this reality. These illuminating poems are the work of an acclaimed poet at the top of her form.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Departing little from such well-titled volumes as The Common and The Pose of Happiness, this fourth collection contains well-crafted poems about Jewish-American middle-class midlife and strife, thoughtful ekphrases, and nostalgic goings-over of origins and relationships: "Once, when I was a child,/ my mother lied to me. Maybe that day/ I was too demanding, more likely I needed/ consolation my schoolmates so lucky,/ so confident,/ so gentile." Such concerns carry over into the poet's literary life (a dominant theme), as "Keep Going" makes clear: "...your name misspelled on last evening's program;// the party uptown after the ceremonies and readings / an editor praising C's poems as if you weren't// standing there beside him, craving appreciation." The title poem's Gershwin-refrained questionings "wouldn't I choose if I could not to be human or/ any other mammal programmed for cruelty?" give way, in "I Wish I Want I Need," to unhurried lines explaining the plot of the 1970s film The Way We Were and why the speaker admires Barbra Streisand's performance therein. The grasping Freudian overtones finally overwhelm poems like "My Dream after Mother Breaks Her Hip" ("I can't dream her power away/ I'm caught here/ in eternity's shade// where I begin to move/ gradually gracelessly/ to embrace her// tree muse emptiness/ cage world") and aren't really ever relieved here, even by "Three Provincetown Mornings." (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226514451
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2001
  • Series: Phoenix Poets Series Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Gail Mazur is the author of Nightfire, The Pose of Happiness, and The Common, the last published by the University of Chicago Press. She is founder and director of the Blacksmith House Poetry Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and teaches in Emerson College's Graduate Program in Writing, Literature and Publishing. She has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College.
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Read an Excerpt

They Can't Take That Away from Me

By Gail Mazur

University of Chicago Press

Copyright © 2001 Gail Mazur
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0226514455

Five Poems Entitled "Questions"

What is my purpose in life

if not to peer into the glazed bowl

of silence and fill it for myself

with words? How shall I do it?

The way a disobedient child sings

to herself to keep out the punishing

night, not knowing that her brother

and sister, hearing the song,

shift in their cots of demons

and are solaced into sleep?

What is my purpose in life

if not to feed myself

with vegetables and herbs

and climb a step machine to nowhere

and breathe deeply to calm myself

and avoid loud noises

and the simmering noon sun?

Isn't there more,

more even than turning to you,

remembering what drew us together,

wondering what will tear us apart?

Does it matter if I tell

my one story again and then again,

changing only a tracing of light,

a bit of fabric, a piece of

laughter, a closed cafeteria-

if I add a detail almost every day

of my life, what will I have done?

Who will I give my collections to,

who would want to use them?

Don't answer, don't make me

hang my head

in gratitude or shame.

What is my purpose in life

if not, when there is nothing to say,

to control myself and say nothing?
What could wisdom be if not

a mastery of waiting and listening?

Is it my purpose to become wise?
What is wisdom? Isn't it a pose,

the will refusing realms of confusion?

How would I approach it, unless
I learned to love the absence of speech,

even the implication of language,

so violently I'd remind myself
of a friend who detests the mimes

who gesticulate on Sundays in the park,

and has begun a postcard campaign
to Silence the Silent. She knows

gestures, too, are a part of speech.

Would it have enough meaning for me,
to watch and listen, to touch

the warm fur of animals and the sandy dunes,

to drop handfuls of fine gravel
into the graves of the newly dead,

to learn grief from the mourner's tears

and courage from their squared shoulders
as they return, each one alone

to the limousines? What gives anyone

the daring to adore paradoxical life?
Won't I always yearn for and fear an answer?

Will I someday have the one thing to say

that contradicts and clarifies itself,
and without falseness or sorrow,

without strutting or stumbling,

will I know to say it?


Excerpted from They Can't Take That Away from Me by Gail Mazur Copyright © 2001 by Gail Mazur. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

I. Five Poems Entitled "Questions"
II. Maybe It's Only the Monotony
Not Crying
I Wish I Want I Need
Young Apple Tree, December
The Weskit
Last Night
My Dream after Mother Breaks Her Hip
They Can't Take That Away from Me
III. Hypnosis
At the Ear, Nose, and Throat Clinic
Girl in a Library
Twenty Lines before Breakfast
Wakeful before Tests
Two Bedrooms
IV. Poems
Michelangelo: To Giovanni da Pistoia When the Author Was Panting the Vault of the Sistine Chapel (translation)
V. Air Drawing
Leah's Dream
Right Now
Keep Going
The Beach
Low Tide
To Begin This Way Every Day
Three Provincetown Mornings
Insomnia at Daybreak
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The fierce "Questions" that open They Can't Take That Away from Me radiate throughout this book-urgent questions, fueled by desire, loss, and the hope for an art to embody "the soul circling its lessons." Gail Mazur's poems move in a direction she describes with both tenderness and irony as "leaning into pain as into a mother's arms." At once colloquial and lyrical voice, they stake a claim on our capacity to look at art and life unflinchingly, to lean into the passion and pain that are our inescapable inheritance, and live. That is what they can't take away from this indispensable poet.
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