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The Oldest Map with the Name America: New and Selected Poems
Synopses & Reviews
Lucia Perillo's poetry embodies a sensibility at once personal and national. Many of her poems are candid and affecting--some document how she negotiates life with multiple sclerosis; others concern her working-class Catholic childhood in a small Hudson River town. But in general, and even in these personal works, her poetry picks up the fragments of American culture--Bart Simpson, crimes of violence, Girl Scouting, teen rebellion, redneck survivalists--and assembles them into a highly readable and illuminating cultural commentary. One poem, "Foley," blends the subjects of movie sound effects and phone sex to make the point that in electronic America things are seldom as they seem--or sound. In "For I Have Taught the Japanese," an ESL instructor confesses, "I was such/an idiot I even tried to apologize more than once/for Nagasaki." In a third, Perillo thumbs through a survivalist magazine to see what it has to offer to her newborn nephew: "They're hawking a T-shirt: I entered the world/fat, mad, and bald, and I plan on leaving that way."
The texture of Lucia Perillo's writing is conversational, poignant, often mordantly funny. The structure of her work is architectural in its grandeur, dramatic in its impact. Taken together, the poems in The Oldest Map with the Name America present the reader with an important new way of looking at the world--a vision that in its coherence provides us with a deep and original understanding of what we're all about, as individuals and as a culture.
Many of her poems are extremely candid and affecting — some chronicle her ongoing struggles with a crippling illness, while others concern her childhood in the suburbs of New York City. But in general her poetry picks up the fragments of American culture — Bart Simpson, crimes of violence, girl scouting, teen rebellion, redneck survivalists — and assembles them into a kind of cultural commentary, using a readable vernacular voice.
About the Author
Lucia Perillo has published two previous collections: The Body Mutinies,for which she won the PEN/Revson Foundation Poetry Fellowship and several other awards, and Dangerous Life, which received the Norma Farber Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her poems have appeared in such magazines as The New Yorker, the Atlantic, and The Kenyon Review, and they have been included in the Pushcart and Best American Poetry anthologies. A former park ranger, she now teaches at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
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