Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 1992.
“This is no place you ever knew me,” writes Adrienne Rich in her major new work, “…These are not the roads/you knew me by.” As always in her forty-year career, this major poet has mapped out new territory , astonishing and enlightening us with her penetrating insight into our lives amid the beauties and cruelties of our difficult world.
“Stern is one of those rare poetic souls who makes it almost impossible to remember what our world was like before his poetry came to exalt it.”—C. K. Williams
The Father is a sequence of poems, a daughter’s vision of a father’s illness and death. It chronicles these events in a connected narrative, from the onset of the illness to reflections in the years after the death. The poems are impelled by a passion to know and a freedom to follow wherever the truth may lead, and it goes into areas of feeling and experience rarely entered in poetry….The ebullient language, the startling images, the sense of connectedness seize us immediately. Sharon Olds transforms a harsh reality with truthfulness, with beauty, with humor—and without bitterness. The deep pain in The Father arises from a death, and from understanding a life. But there is joy as well. In the end, we discover we have been reading not a grim accounting but an inspiriting tragedy, transcending the personal.
“Sub Rosa? Of course, for these poems are rich in the secrets of emotional survival. The small balances and charms that children learn in their long solitude, like a light ‘faint but unfailing,’ have been lovingly transformed in these poems to the adult world. The resulting poems are beautiful and delicate, and have terrific resilience and strength.”—William Matthews.
The Wild Iris was written during a ten-week period in the summer of 1991. Louise Cluck’s first four collections consistently returned to the natural world, to the classical and biblical narratives that arose to explain the phenomena of this world, to provide meaning and to console. Ararat, her fifth book, offered a substitution for the received: a demotic, particularized myth of contemporary family. Now in The Wild Iris, her most important and accomplished collection to date, ecstatic imagination supplants both empiricism and tradition, creating an impassioned polyphonic exchange among the god who “disclose[s]/virtually nothing,” human beings who “leave/signs of feeling/everywhere,” and a garden where “whatever/returns from oblivion returns/ to find a voice.” The poems of this sequence see beyond mortality, the bitter discovery on which individuality depends. “To be one thing/is to be next to nothing,” Cluck challenges the reader. “Is it enough/only to look inward?” A major…[more]