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Loose Sugar
     

Loose Sugar

by Brenda Hillman
 

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Loose Sugar is an alchemical manuscript disguised as a collection of poems, or vice versa. Either way, the primal materials of which this book is comprised — love, sex, adolescence, space-time, depression, post-colonialism, and sugar — are movingly and mysteriously transmuted: not into gold, but into a poet's philosopher's stone, in which language

Overview

Loose Sugar is an alchemical manuscript disguised as a collection of poems, or vice versa. Either way, the primal materials of which this book is comprised — love, sex, adolescence, space-time, depression, post-colonialism, and sugar — are movingly and mysteriously transmuted: not into gold, but into a poet's philosopher's stone, in which language marries life.

Structurally virtuosic, elaborate without being ornate, Loose Sugar is spun into series within series: each of the five sections has a dual heading (such as "space / time" or "time / work") in which the terms are neither in collision nor collusion, but in conversation. It's elemental sweet talk, and is Brenda Hillman's most experimental work to date, culminating in a meditation on the possibility of a native — and feminine — language.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This energetic collection is very different from Hillman's recent collections, Death Tractates (1992) and its companion volume Bright Existence. That pair took a somber, reflective tone in dealing with a close friend's death and Hillman's attempts to come to terms with mortality. This volume is as loose as the sequence of 12 poems from which comes the book's titlea wild ride that includes quotes, parenthetical fragments, monetary charts and wonderful poetic snapshots of Hillman's native Brazil (where her father worked in the sugar industry) as well as descriptions of her current life ("sometimes the outline of my husband's ear in the half dark/ looks like Brazil"). The poems are concerned with the connection between immediacy and history, body and soul, thought and feeling. But sustained poetic argument is not Hillman's focus here. Conceit and idea fade before sensuous descriptions of men and women whose "hands were sleek/ with asking sleek with asking," of schoolboys with "those long intramural after/ the library type fingers/ they would later put in you," and of girls standing "in long paisley dresses, coyote cries/ coming through them, something frightened and/ being canceled." In many ways, the collection lives up to its title: its attention is scattered, and so are its many pleasures. (Mar.)
"Time in Brenda Hillman's poetry resembles loose sugar ground from the cane of Brazil, a vivid detail of her Brazilian childhood. It sifts through the 'deep noticing' of the poet as she matures in California. Memories (real or imagined) are gathered into highly 'scenic' poetics. I admire the way Hillman attaches a plumage (or energy) to her nude expressive details. I see Loose Sugar as part of the anatomy of the rare bird of 'autobiographical' experimentation."
Library Journal
In the poem that gives title to this collection, sugarprecious, warm, quickly used up, and easily lostis a metaphor for time. Sugar was the rare commodity that brought borrowers to the door of Hillman's barely remembered childhood home in Brazil: "Laterthe rest of my lifetime resembles warm sugar, something almost imaginary having to do with asking." Underlined by the book's section titles"space/time," "time/alchemy," "problem/ time," and so onis the telescoping conceit of time, deceivingly abundant in personal recollections of adolescent sexuality in Southwestern U.S. suburbia, or impossibly scarce in the present complexities of family and work: "sex grows rather dim sometimes/ doesn't it but it comes back." The experimental nature of much of these poemsseeming to emerge from the compulsion to "stop making sense" in the traditional fashiontakes the writer into the margins of her page with poetic counterpoint in fine print, parentheses enclosing blank spaces, mind-bending quotes from Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, and other departures from linear narrative. And although some readers may tire of the ride, many will nevertheless be attracted to this West Coast poet, whose humor and irony never fail to shine through.Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780819572042
Publisher:
Wesleyan University Press
Publication date:
03/01/2011
Series:
Wesleyan Poetry Series
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
127
File size:
3 MB

What People are Saying About This

Barbara Guest
“Time in Brenda Hillman’s poetry resembles loose sugar ground from the cane of Brazil, a vivid detail of her Brazilian childhood. It sifts through the ‘deep noticing’ of the poet as she matures in California. Memories (real or imagined) are gathered into highly ‘scenic’ poetics. I admire the way Hillman attaches a plumage (or energy) to her nude expressive details. I see Loose Sugar as part of the anatomy of the rare bird of ‘autobiographical’ experimentation.”

Meet the Author

BRENDA HILLMAN teaches writing at St. Mary's College in Moraga, CA. Her other books, all published by Wesleyan, include Cascadia (2001), Death Tractates (1992), Bright Existence (1992), and Fortress (1989).

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