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Mere Mortals: Poems
     

Mere Mortals: Poems

by Terese Svoboda
 
All of the medical, technological, and psychological advances of the twentieth century challenge “mere mortals” in Terese Svoboda’s third book of poetry. In “Faust,” a mini-epic in five acts, the eponymous character of literary legend appears in the form of a woman, who redefines what being mortal means in light of the politics of the

Overview

All of the medical, technological, and psychological advances of the twentieth century challenge “mere mortals” in Terese Svoboda’s third book of poetry. In “Faust,” a mini-epic in five acts, the eponymous character of literary legend appears in the form of a woman, who redefines what being mortal means in light of the politics of the Third World, and gender. In contrast “Ptolemy’s Rules for High School Reunions” explores what happens when you do without a pact with the devil. The gods—Greek and otherwise—also make appearances as a TV announcer in “Philomela,” in the basement with the plumber in “The Smell of Burning Pennies,” and in the dyslexic confusion between “Dog/God.” But it is not only the divine that charges the poems in Mere Mortals—sex also suffuses and reinvents key relationships. Readers of such wittily probing poems as “The Root of Father is Fat” and “Brassiere: Prison or Showcase?” will know why Philip Levine has described Svoboda as “one light-year from being the polite, loverly, workshop poet. Mere Mortals poems first appeared in such magazines as the New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, Paris Review, and the American Poetry Review.

Editorial Reviews

on Mere Mortals - Timothy Donnelly

Svoboda triumphs, wriggling out of her own verbal knots with the energy and wit of a sideshow star.

on Weapons Grade - Thomas Lux

Svoboda has such range—of subject, of emotion (from whimsical play to chillingly dead serious), that these poems take you on a wild ride, fast and dangerous, but always in control. This is a goddamn terrific book!

on Treason - Eleanor Wilner

Cool, wry surface: depth charge of cry, of outrage—language at the edge of utterance, utterly original, black-bordered, indelible as we are not.

Virginia Quarterly Review

For those who wish to study a modern style, here is a volume to dig into.

From the Publisher

"Svoboda triumphs, wriggling out of her own verbal knots with the energy and wit of a sideshow star."—Timothy Donnelly, on Mere Mortals

"Svoboda has such range—of subject, of emotion (from whimsical play to chillingly dead serious), that these poems take you on a wild ride, fast and dangerous, but always in control. This is a goddamn terrific book!"—Thomas Lux, on Weapons Grade

"Cool, wry surface: depth charge of cry, of outrage—language at the edge of utterance, utterly original, black-bordered, indelible as we are not."—Eleanor Wilner, on Treason

"For those who wish to study a modern style, here is a volume to dig into."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"One of Svoboda's most valuable assets is a rambling, vivid imagination which, when not held in check by myth and legend, is fully original."—Publishers Weekly

"In all, Svoboda's outlandish wit . . . stuns the face of culture's illusions like lightning. Negotiating a 'wacked-out' path to rueful wisdom, she casts a cold eye at love beyond innocence at the end of the 20th century . . . For readers who prefer the chill of a dry martini."—Library Journal

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``Stop dragging in Chaucer,'' commands an unspecific speaker in a poem capturing a young man's first impressions of a girlfriend's family. Instead of heeding her own words, Svoboda (Cannibal; All Aberration) immediately adds references to Caesar, Cleopatra and Persephone. The classics also inspire her ``Faust,'' a woman in modern dress who ``keeps her shades on/ through breakfast,'' and an acerbic 40-part ``Ptolemy's Rules for High School Reunions.'' There are too many literary figures, too few real people captured in believable action. Poems such as ``Dog/God'' (about dyslexia) prove her eye to be more than bookish. Many of the finest poems (``Philomela'' and ``Death for Franchise'' among them) lead readers so subtly into an often-painful surrealism that we turn back to double-check what came over us. One of Svoboda's most valuable assets is a rambling, vivid imagination which, when not held in check by myth and legend, is fully original. (June)
Library Journal
Svoboda's third book of poetry veers past divorce, corruption, and "buzzing mystery" into antsy, colloquial monologs about "ghostlike, love-struck loiterers." Stirring ashes of idealism for what remains, Svoboda sees old-fashioned high tragedy (Faust becomes a show biz/circus extravaganza in an improbable 30-page play/ poem) as inexplicable daydream. High school reunions, Othello's ardor, Greek myth, nature, religion, "vagaries of family life"-nothing withstands the scrutiny of what was once believed to be "in modern diaspora." What happened to Arcadia in an era of " get-rich-quick sewers" sets Svoboda's teeth on edge but occasions agitatedly brilliant imagery. In all, Svoboda's outlandish wit-she wrote an award-winning novel, Cannibal (LJ 11/15/94)-stuns the face of culture's illusions like lightning. Negotiating a "wacked-out" path to rueful wisdom, she casts a cold eye at love beyond innocence at the end of the 20th century. "I stare into that cold screen/I do stare," she says. For readers who prefer the chill of a dry martini.-Frank Allen, West Virginia State Coll., Institute

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780820334240
Publisher:
University of Georgia Press
Publication date:
09/01/2009
Series:
The Contemporary Poetry Series
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
148
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.34(d)

Meet the Author

Terese Svoboda is the author of ten books of prose and poetry, most recently Black Glasses Like Clark Kent which won the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize. Her honors in poetry include the Iowa Poetry Prize and two prizes from the Poetry Society of America, the Lucille Medwick Award and Cecil Hemley Award. Her opera WET premiered at Walt Disney's REDCAT performance space in Los Angeles in 2005. Svoboda lives in New York.

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