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Crash's Law: Poems (National Poetry Series Books) Paperback – February 17, 1998


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Product Details

  • Series: National Poetry Series Books
  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (February 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393317226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393317220
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,373,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The beauty of Jones's outstanding fifth collection (after Apocalyptic Narrative and Other Poems, 1993) lies in the way he employs control in order to evoke, not tame, the chaos of experience. Organized in four sections (Last Myths of the Pioneers, The Troubles That Women Start Are Men, Close Relations and Elemental Powers), the book begins in the vast province of American history, moves through anecdotes and tableaux of present-day life and ends with poems steeped in philosophy, sex and natural science. Although there is much beauty in Jones's world, much is also distasteful, even disgusting, and the poet never relaxes his candor. Beneath the evocations of television, Coca-Cola and space travel lie the phantoms of who we really are: weakly-lit rationalists eminently mortal despite our national myths. The middle two sections are grimmer, littered with such gothic oddities as a young man stepping gingerly over bits of a murdered man's spleen and liver while his father chats with the killer. In the last section, we find Jones digging for redemption?finding sex, eating and writing, whipsawing between the metaphysical and the physical, moving from narrative to thought, often letting light invade and even redefine the darkness he observes. "Sex" concludes: "Why should I praise the exemplary life,/ Possible only in age or failing health?/ All that I love was founded on the same premise/ As heaven: that pleasure lasts longer than death." Jones is so good, he almost makes you agree. (June) Selected by Heather McHugh as 1995 winner in the National Poetry Series, Volkman's debut collection retells myths and fairy tales in a modern, abstract voice to reveal essential, nearly private messages. In "Persephone at Home," for example, the abducted goddess is ironic and cold in accepting her fate: "I'll give no prince to this kingdom./ That thing is dead." The collection's pared-down yet inventive voice often surprises with exact rightness, as in "Reflections": "What good is a sky, I might have asked, if it will not give us new/ blue distance, if it will/ only throw our loss back at us, shabby lens." Like the girl in "Science and Industry" who chooses to play with Legos rather than "sweet-limbed cherry-cheeked/ dolls," Volkman chooses an angular, rigorously constructed style that informs her work with an exciting confidence, even though at times substance or a more radical exploration of meaning is sacrificed to style. Despite this occasional hollow effect, Volkman forcefully fuses ancient story and contemporary scene to frame an ironic and deflected commentary on modern emotional life.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Reading Volkman's Crash's Law, a 1995 National Poetry series winner selected by Heather McHugh, provides the same difficult joy as sucking on a jawbreaker, candy that is pleasant yet hard as rock. Volkman admits that her "grasp on the essential" is through "the abstract, the elemental,/ with no slightest correlation/ to anything human." Her "angular/ unpeopled landscapes" suffer from the poetic overmanagement of a superior intellect incapable of relinquishing control. There's a squeaking of the hinges as Volkman works at language, like Legos or Tinker Toys, which she confesses she preferred to "sweet-limbed cherry-cheeked/ dolls." Too many of these cerebral, vivid poems gasp for oxygen under the influence of Sylvia Plath (e.g., a poem called "Tulips") and Theodore Roethke ("O lost regeneration!/ O saline amoeba!"). Poems left on their own-a tribute to Edith Piaf ("No Regrets") and a description of a lover's dying mother ("Theft")-have a complex, verifying presence. With difficulty, Volkman's concentrated, private discourse tries to elucidate "the dark/ of pure desire." For readers interested in the aesthetic side of contemporary poetry.
Frank Allen, North Hampton Community Coll., Tannersville, Pa.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
Don't believe the hype with this book. Pretentious, deliberately opaque, and just plain boring, this is one of those books that leaves you nonplussed at how the judges of the National Poetry Series justified giving it an award. Yawn.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is the strongest debut--and in fact the most exciting book of poems--that I have read in a long time. The poems are indeed smart (aren't poets supposed to, like, kinda know stuff?), but Volkman has such a respect for the forces of language that they are never only clever. I'd actually given up expecting to find new poems so immediately exciting that also compelled slow, tough reading.
If I had one qualm it's that the ghost of Plath, or her punchy, crackly diction, seems to haunt a couple too many poems. But I am amazed at Volkman's detractors (below). Mostly when I read those kind of comments I can see what they are getting at. In this case, I simply have no idea what they are talking about. Crash's Law is wonderful stuff: expert without being mannered (no "well-made" observations here); sharp without being slick. It's just very heartening that someone is again capable of doing work of this quality so early in her career.
The real thing, again, at last.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By "hirofantv" on May 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
Karen Volkman's is a voice one does want to see continue. In this book, she offers her own insights & ideas -- poetically, unuquely, metaphorically -- & embraces lyric poetry while remaining as experimental as she weants to be. Clearly she's smart, individualistic, & I'm interested to see what more poetry she proves capable of, as early books tend to be regarded as primarily only formative after the career has been attended to further.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Evergreen on August 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
I love the wit and intelligence of Volkman's poetry.
Her work is erudite and crafty, emotionally deep and unwaveringly honest. Her many awards are richly deserved-- she is one poet who I think will have strength and staying power. Since this book's publication, I have run across her work in a variety of poetry journals, including the Paris Review, and have been impressed by her range and intelligence. She is clearly very confident and unafraid of challenging herself.
I greatly look forward to her next book. I think it is coming out soon in fact.
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More About the Author

Karen Volkman was born in Miami and received her B.A. from New College in Sarasota, Florida, and an M.A. from Syracuse University. Her first book, Crash's Law, was a National Poetry Series selection, published by W.W. Norton in 1996. Her second book, Spar

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Crash's Law: Poems (National Poetry Series Books)
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