Synopses & Reviews
A chilling and masterful second poetry collection by Mark Wunderlich, the author of the award-winning The Anchorage
Sometimes the heart breaks. Sometimes
it is not held hostage. The red world
where cells prepare for the unexpected
splays open at the window's ledge.
Be not human you inhuman thing. -from "Amaryllis"
Voluntary Servitude asks of the beloved, "You say, Don't wreck me, and I say I won't, but how can I know that?" Here the poet is both servant and master to memory, sex, family, and the will of the lover, and the resulting poems describe the physical and psychological constraints and releases of relationships at the breaking point.
"Vivid, convincing lines on the torments of love, flirtatious descriptions and weighty confessions mingle in Wunderlich's deeply felt sophomore effort. 'This is availability, this is tenderness,' Wunderlich's leadoff poem announces, and the lyrical works that follow demonstrate both. Rural Wisconsin (where the poet grew up) alternates with vistas from Austria and Turkey as the poet's erotic quest, his desperately hopeful declarations and admissions, spread out to encompass an imagined world. Insistent short lines control poems of waiting and hoping, while longer stanzas and sentences extend over a love affair's aftermath, where 'I was what they left behind in the fire.' His images end up filmic, almost baroque, finding complication and human longing in every animal, valley, forest and street. Hunting and horseback riding govern several extended metaphors, while other lines pursue (or reject) erotic experience in more literal fashion. 'I spent my summer dancing on a bar,' one prose poem begins; 'It was a summer of little daylight and I was mostly imaginary.' Another poem concludes on a stark invitation: 'Look at me, little body./ Look at me with a heart that is drum-empty.' Wunderlich's debut, The Anchorage, garnered a 1999 Lambda Award; the variety of forms and emotional intensities here should bring this follow-up even more recognition." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This haunting book proposes to consider ardor, love, and betrayal through the lens of a particular rhetoric: the vocabulary of submission and domination, the dynamic of power and desire yoking slave and master, beast and trainer, the harnessed and the wielder of the whip. Operating in a linguistic realm that floats somewhere above the territory of narrative without sacrificing either urgency or emotional intensity, Mark Wunderlich's new collection is a bold, memorable accomplishment." --Mark Doty
About the Author
is the author of The Anchorage
, which won the 1999 Lambda Literary Award. He teaches at Sarah Lawrence College in New York and lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts.