Synopses & Reviews
"[Jean Valentine's] poems are a rare pleasure: serious and graceful, never glib, testimony to the strength and beauty of the lyric as a music of words, not ideas. As elliptical and demanding as Emily Dickinson, Valentine consistently rewards the reader."Library Journal
In her eleventh collection, National Book Awardwinning poet Jean Valentine characteristically weds a moral imperative to imaginative and linguistic leaps and bounds. Whether writing elegies, meditations on aging, or an extended homage to ancient remains, Valentine searches out ideas and explores the unexplainable. As Adrienne Rich has said of Valentine's work, "This is a poetry of the highest order, because it lets us into spaces and meanings we couldn't approach in any other way."
From "If a Person Visits Someone in a Dream, in Some Cultures the Dreamer Thanks Them":
At a hotel in another star. The rooms were cold and
damp, we were both at the desk at midnight asking if
they had any heaters. They had one heater. You are
ill, please you take it. Thank you for visiting my dream.
Can you breathe all right?
Break the glass shout
break the glass force the room
break the thread Open
the music behind the glass . . .
Jean Valentine is the state poet of New York. She has earned many honors, including the National Book Award, the Wallace Stevens Award, and the Shelley Memorial Prize. She has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, and Columbia University. She lives in New York City.
In the connected untitled lyrics that make up the final section of Valentine's 11th collection the poet is at her fierce best. She addresses Lucy an early hominid whose skeleton was discovered in Ethiopia in 1974. The details that Valentine always renders palpable and significant are heightened by their juxtaposition with this long lost life as when she questions: "Did you have a cup Lucy?/ O God who transcends time/ let Lucy have a cup." Current terrors bodies falling from the World Trade Center towers the deaths of a pair named Ruth and Grace are both contextualized and underscored by this totem "skeleton mother." Valentine writes: "when my scraped out child died Lucy/ you hold her all the time." The rest of the volume ranges in subject matter and setting moving from a soldier in the Civil War to a chemo patient Haiti ghosts in elephant fields. Each poem shares Valentine's trademark concision and pared down punch. Some of her severe observations can stop your breath: "Don't listen to the words / they're only little shapes for what you're saying/ they're only cups if you're thirsty you aren't thirsty." (Sept.) " Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
[Jean Valentines] minimalist, elided style is like the quiet concentration of a bank robber trying to crack a safe.”Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Jean Valentine: Jean Valentine is the current State Poet of New York. She is the author of eleven books of poetry, including Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, which won the National Book Award for Poetry. She has earned many of the countrys highest honors for her work, including the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and The Poetry Society of America's Shelley Memorial Prize. She has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, and Columbia University. She lives in New York City.