Saturday, June 04, 2005

Rachel Zucker

I hadn't known what to make of her work for a long time. The first book didn't make any sense to me, but that's mostly my fault because I don't know the myth on which it's based. But Zucker's recently published a couple of searing and incredible poems in journals--I'm thinking of the one in Canary and another in the new issue of Columbia Poetry Review--which have taken the top of my head off.

Zucker's sense of form had always seemed much too sloppy for me, poems sprawled all over the page, sudden prose paragraphs, no regularity of any kind. But in these new poems, that crazed form, for me at least, figures a despirate need to get things into words before they get away. These are poems about the struggle to love and to be happy, quite simply, and the emotions are slippery and require a kind of emergency handling.

I had bought her second book at the Strand months ago for a few bucks, but it looked too wierd, so I put it on my shelf and forgot about it. I pulled it back out again yesterday and read it. It traces the birth of her sons and the ensuing developments in her marriage. May I say now that I am more than sold on what Zucker is doing. She's found a harrowing way of conveying time--the closing poem is a play by play of the second son's birth. In it, she manages to convey all the action, but also the fleeting thoughts that come and go during a moment or a prolonged episode of physical and emotional pain. Then, there are more controlled moments in the book like this:

even cribbed his cry my tiny master emergency
seems the woman I was has gone missing
again no matter rocking makes it later and later

Anyway, it just reminds me that life is pretty hard for everyone, which is certainly something I come to poetry to remember.

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