"Over the last quarter-century, Notley has crafted an increasingly important body of work that mixes unabashed lyric beauty with jerky snippets from a capacious mind."
"Notley as artist is like a hero on a fantastical journey. She descends into subterranean worlds of dream and ascends to heights of philosophical thought, but also remains rooted in the dirt of politics and the tedium of the everyday life."
Notley's recognizable subjectsamong them personal losses, the malfeasance of politicians, gender inequality, the failings of languagearen't particularly new or surprising, for her or anyone else. The radical freshness of her poems stems not from what they talk about, but how they talk, in a stream-of-consciousness style that both describes and dramatizes the movement of the poet's restless mind, leaping associatively from one idea or sound to the next without any irritable reaching after reason or plot. Each turn Notley takes seems to make its own kind of sense, though after a few sentences you're not sure where you are, how you got there or how you might get back…it's easy to trust Notley's voice; in fact it's a great pleasure. Her tonewry but never sour, generous but never sappy, politically committed but never didacticacts as a steady and stabilizing current beneath the nervous surfaces of her poems, and allows her to say whatever comes into her head without the results ever quite seeming random.
The New York Times
Notley takes the title of her 30-somethingth collection from a notorious American folk song: a man tries to get his lover to admit she's been unfaithful, asking her where she's slept, and her ambiguous answer-"in the pines"-only makes things worse. That menacing rhetorical moment informs the whole of this searing collection, which is part autobiography, part riposte to literary culture, and part lyrical reclamation of feminist territory. The at times deliberately ugly long opening title poem is a grotesque's monologue that shades into omniscience-"All I am is this. So all of writing is changed"-and back to embodiment: "It's almost a story or a poem but it's really a song because it's ripping me apart." Suffused with pain and white-hot accusatory anger, the poem delves into illness, death, love, and being "defective" in a manner that's almost unbearable to read, and which makes dazzling shifts in perspective that keep it rising like a house of cards, or a life. The two sections that follow-the prose poems of "The Black Trailor" and the lyrics of "Hemostatic"-amplify and expand the title piece, reverberating "in this crushed out room where/ all times come," giving the book a crushing yet sad and graceful symmetry. This master poet continues to inspire and challenge. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
In her latest collection, Notley-a Pulitzer Prize nominee for Mysteries of Small Houses(1998)- plays with words, uses fragments, and mixes voices to hint at a meaning. As she said in an interview with Gale's Contemporary Authors, "I'm not interested in meaning. I'm interested in being right here, no veils." The present volume works through language poems that center on what a newly dead person might say as she enters the nether world. As with her earlier epic poem, The Descent of Alette, Notley writes dreamlike sequences about a corpse being dismembered. Although the style is conversational, the narrator seems to be talking to herself in an almost stream-of-consciousness manner while musing on murder, sex, fire, song, and poetry. At 60-plus pages, the first poem (which comprises the book's first part) is off-putting because of its length, its subject matter, and the way Notley avoids making sense. The next two sections feature better works, page-length prose poems and shorter, airier free-verse poems that showcase Notley's unusual metaphors. Suitable for academic libraries only.