Synopses & Reviews
Priscilla Becker, whose first book of poems, Internal West, won The Paris Review Book Prize, has written an astonishingly precise second collection, Stories That Listen. These poems attempt to come to terms with absences personal and global: one speaker wonders if a former partner still uses her map which showed the world / before it broke up into separate / continents. Another, missing a departed friend, retraces her steps, took a tour of your former apartments. The recipient of a letter containing a fraction of an ounce of Chanel Mademoiselle attempts to understand the sender's motives, tried to scrape together enough dust / to fill a bowl or roll a minuscule cigarette. / I thought perhaps that this was your intent.
Stories That Listen offers a science of the human, a way to understand the world through watching closely. Becker deftly slows action down--we see fingers curl /around my coffee cup--to find the remarkable, the noteworthy, in the everyday. Quirky, at times outright funny, always wise, Stories That Listen is a resonant, rewarding read.
"This second book by Becker (Internal West) speaks from a stark place beyond heartbreak, after the dust has settled, where 'It is a mistake to call logic/ cold: it has no temperature at all./ It merely reveals itself/ when the last of the emotion is gone.' Cast in uneven free verse lines, this book begins and ends in resignation; it's less a journey than a confirmation of what its speaker suspected all along, that life is both disappointing and unfailingly interesting. At times these lines echo the lonely brilliance of Sylvia Plath or Louise GlÃ¼ck, and, of course, their forebear Emily Dickinson, for whom the natural world mirrored the inner one. Becker's claustrophobia begets insight--Becker often addresses a hazy 'you,' a lost beloved, but really this is the self addressing the self, saying what only the self needs to hear or can understand, 'the kind of thing/ one notices--/after the extremes-- /a kind of sobriety.' (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)