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Collected Poems: With Notes Toward the Memoirs Paperback – November 28, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Famous for her grim lesbian novel Nightwood (1936) and for her life as a fabulous expatriate in Paris between WWI and WWII, Barnes (1892– 1982) has never enjoyed a reputation as a poet, partly because almost none of her post-Nightwood verse saw print. This diligent and exhaustive edition both restores her hard-to-find magazine verse of the 1910s and 1920s and makes available her dense, sardonic late poems. The early poems are conventional in form, but extreme in emotion. Some focus on same-sex desire; others perform a self-conscious wildness, with disturbing or deadly tableaux—a lady's "profile like a dagger lain/ Between the hair," a "snail that marks the girth of night with slime." The later poetry, as the editors write, "challenges us to savor lines that appear to be English, but... elude us," condensing almost to unintelligibility a gothic-sarcastic sensibility derived from T.S. Eliot, and from the 17th-century dramatists Barnes, like Eliot, admired. She casts herself as a neo-medieval scourge of hypocrisy named Dan Corbeau ("Lord Crow"), attacks authority of all sorts, or invokes "Lucifer, the salmon of the air,/ The kiss killing man," who "Breeds himself by falling from the air." Often the editors print multiple drafts of a single unfinished poem. Of more general interest, perhaps, are the pages from Barnes's unfinished prose memoir of Paris: despite their repetitive, fragmentary state, they contain witty remarks and observations on Joyce, Stein, Jean Cocteau and other luminaries, among them her own mentor T.S. Eliot, whom she admired and resented to the end. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Djuna Barnes may seem like a one-hit wonder to readers familiar with her tragic modernist novel Nightwood, which was touted by T. S. Eliot. But she actually published a lot of poetry early in her career, and remained prolific until her death. Compiled here for the first time are the poems and memoir pieces that Barnes wrote during the last 40 years of her life, plus many poems that had been published previously and forgotten. Editors Herring and Stutman carefully sifted through numerous drafts and fragments, and their work reveals Barnes' developmental stages as a poet, while also confirming her skill and originality. Barnes was an enigma who guarded her privacy and resisted simplistic labeling, including the designation of her work as lesbian literature. Looking at Barnes' rhyming, Parkeresquely satiric, and formal poems in the context of today's largely autobiographical poetry, it may be difficult for the average reader to embrace them. The memoir pieces, however, offer a wonderful glimpse into Barnes' Paris years and show off her engaging modernist prose. Janet St. John
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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