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Grave of Light


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About the Author

ALICE NOTLEY, considered by many to be among the most outstanding of living American poets, has published more than twenty collections of poems. She has also received the Griffin Poetry Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Award for poetry, and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Paris.


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. Her books, however, have been haphazardly and often obscurely published by both small and major house; this collection brings together, for the first time, poems from all points in Notley's career, making available many pieces that have long been impossible to find. Beginning as a poet of the second generation of the New York School, Notley (who was married to the late Ted Berrigan, and, with their two sons, recently edited his Collected Poems) developed a mostly autobiographical, stream-of-consciousness style. Her meditations and sequences take an array of forms and modes, including collages of her children's voices ("These are my silver mittens Mommy"), short lyrics recalling famous figures ("The late Gracie Allen was a very lucid comedienne"), as well as absurdist poetic diaries and letters ("P.S. My own temperature is a perpetual 101 degrees"). More recent poems that come to terms with her marriage to Berrigan are among her best: "`You haven't wanted to talk to me since I died,' he says." While somewhat idiosyncratically organized, this is an essential book. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"The inexhaustible reach and ceaseless invention of Notley's vision make Grave of Light a thrilling testament to her greatest poetic gift: an unwavering faith in poetry's power to change the real." - Brian Teare, Boston Review "It's not often one finds oneself reading a selection of poems from cover to cover with the eagerness of a good novel; and then you come to the end and slow down, because you didn't want to finish... I can't say I've enjoyed a book this year half as much as this." - Steven Waling, Stride"

Always innovative and occasionally maudlin, the poems in Notley's latest book play haphazardly with figures of sound and speech. Showing the influences of ee cummings and William Carlos Williams ("So Much," for instance, is Williams minus the brilliant imagery), these free-verse poems are written as letters, postcards, and prose-paragraphs. Many use quotation marks instead of periods and commas; others rely on the line break to suggest meanings, which may or may not be present. In one of the most evocative and representative poems here, "Choosing Styles-1972" (from Mysteries of Small Houses, a Pulitzer Prize finalist), Notley suggests both the metaphorical and the emotional territory of her work. As she muses on the process of her poetry-"who wants to write in old long lines clearly and not be/ slightly more inscrutable/ askance in freakier/ lines, in brilliance/ outflame/ blaze; flash-?"-she arrives at her subject: death. Although the ending evokes an uneasy resonance with ee cummings ("Buffalo Bill"), it also shows Notley's talent for finishing a poem as opposed to merely stopping it. Suggested for larger libraries.-Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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