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Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965-2003 (Wesleyan Poetry)by Jean Valentine
Winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Poetry
Synopses & Reviews
Since the 1965 publication of her first book, Dream Barker, selected for the Yale Younger Poets Award, Jean Valentine has published eight collections of poetry to critical acclaim. Spare and intensely-felt, Valentine?s poems present experience as only imperfectly graspable. This volume gathers together all of Valentine?s published poems and includes a new collection, Door in the Mountain.
Valentine's poetry is as recognizable as the slant truth of a dream. She is a brave, unshirking poet who speaks with fire on the great subjects ? love, and death, and the soul. Her images?strange, canny visions of the unknown self ? clang with the authenticity of real experience. This is an urgent art that wants to heal what it touches, a poetry that wants to tell, intimately, the whole life.
"Short, jagged works exhibit a primal fierceness while longer works tell straightforward stories about companionship and disappointment in this very mixed survey. Valentine won the Yale Younger Poets award in 1965 for a first collection (Dream Barker) whose gloomy rhymed visions suggested Lowell and Plath: 'I am thrown open like a child's damp hand/ In sleep. You turn your back in sleep, unmanned.' Like many other poets in those years, Valentine abandoned her early forms for a more direct free verse, suited to mysticism, to personal turmoil and to political protest: 'slowly our exploding time/ gives off its lives.' Valentine grew even more direct, and much more discursive, in the late '70s; if her middle period now seems very much of its era, the last decade has shown — and this solid volume confirms — a return to her strengths. The defiant, angular, yet propulsively emotional recent poems that occupy the first and last parts of the book should please both fans of Valentine's earliest poetry and fans of her strongly feminist middle period: subjects range from the nature of the soul to an obstetric fistula, a woman's prison, an emblematic scarab and an embryo 'her head still floating/ listening listening/ to the Real Life.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
?This is a poetry of the highest order, because it lets us into spaces and meanings we couldn't approach in any other way... The known and familiar become one with the mysterious and half-wild, at the place where consciousness and the subliminal meet... In all her work, most astonishingly in this new book, Jean Valentine offers us the danger and depth of the ordinary, and we shiver with recognition and relief.? Adrienne Rich, about The River at Wolf
?I wholeheartedly endorse this book. It is interesting to place it alongside Barbara Guest and Rae Armantrout and to see a lovely loop that is a kind of sensibility between them. I mean, lyrical of course, but each one taking a very different position from the other, yet they are "sisters". What I would say about Jean Valentine's poems is that they have a relationship to the invisible, the white spaces between the lines, to loss and to buoyancy that never fails. It is acrobatically glorious, this collection, unparalleled in its commitment to balancing the unspoken with the spoken. To read it is fully pleasurable and easy and at the same time difficult, because each poem springs from the head of Wisdom.? Fanny Howe
The collected works of one of America's most innovative poets.
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