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Desesperanto: Poems 1999-2002 Paperback – January 17, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Combining lucid, almost chatty autobiography, outspoken progressive politics and a casual mastery of elaborate forms, Hacker's work has won admiration for poems about city life, and (more recently) for translations of Francophone poets. All those skills receive a renewed airing in this confident 10th collection, which opens with an elegy to June Jordan and closes with elegiac sonnets, blank verse, a ghazal and even a canzone. Hacker's title fuses "despair" and Esperanto, and her book in some sense tries for both. Included are a chain of informative sonnets depicting Parisian streets and scenes: "Rue Beaurepaire" considers the "retired mail clerks, philoprogenitive/ Chinese textiles workers, Tunisian grocers" who keep a drug users' clinic from opening, while "Troiseme Sans Ascenceur" starts from "A square of sunlight on the study wall." Where other Anglos in Paris see the sights, Hacker celebrates everyday life in a multicultural, multiracial city, in poems that can read like a personalized travel guide. Freestanding, and perhaps deeper, poems comprise the volume's third section, mixing personal and public grief: angry about the warlike state of the U.S.-led world, Hacker tries hard to "Call the plumber again./ Remember how to think"; writes multiple poems to her ill friend, the poet Hayden Carruth; asks "Is it luck/ no one gets her old life back?"; investigates the ontology of migraine headaches; and searches for "something clearer about pain." If that clearer thing doesn't quite emerge here, the search remains a starting point.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Hacker is a poet-lover of two cities, natal New York and adopted Paris, and she writes about their skies, streets, and citizens with sensory precision and an abiding sense of history. In her magnificent tenth collection, this veteran poet, editor, translator, and teacher channels her thoughts and feelings down two rivers, the Hudson and the Seine, and her liquid lines are themselves riverine in their reflections, swift currents, and shifting hues. Beautifully formed long poems offer vivid portraits of such admired individuals as war resisters and the late writers Joseph Roth and June Jordan, while a series of breathtakingly elegant sonnets provide vibrant collages of city life, such as a pastiche of different languages in a park percolating with romping children and chatting adults. Clouds sail on a strong wind, leaves fall, flowers falter under rain, the aroma of baking bread twists enticingly through a window, lovers take late-night cabs across fog-draped bridges, and women wearing lace park their motorcycles outside a bar. The poet remembers war, illness, heartbreak, and intoxication and is enraptured, instructed, and transformed by the variegated beauty of life, the mysterious presence of mind, and the balm of language. Donna Seaman
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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (January 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393326306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393326307
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,959,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marilyn Hacker is the author of twelve books of poems, including Names (Norton, 2009) Essays on Departure (Carcanet Press, UK, 2006)and Desesperanto (Norton, 2003). Her twelve volumes of translations from the French include Rachida Madani's Tales of a Severed Head (Yale University Press, 2012) Emmanuel Moses' He and I (Oberlin College Press, 2009), Marie Etienne's King of a Hundred Horsemen (Farrar Strauss and Giroux, 2008) which received the 2009 American PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and Vénus Khoury-Ghata's Nettles (The Graywolf Press, 2008). She lives in New York and Paris. She is a past recipient of the Lenore Marshall Award, the Poets' Prize, the National Book Award, two Lambda Literary Awards and the PEN Voelcker Award in Poetry in 2010, and is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She received the Argana International Poetry Award from the House of Poetry/ Beit as-Sh'ir in Morocco in 2012.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Shaquanna Johnson on December 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Marilyn Hacker's collection of poems, Desesperanto, is a blend of American subjects and French flair. The poetry collection is a look into the woman herself. Her thoughts, concerns in the world, and her sorrow of the friends that she has lost in the recent years. The poems here are very thought provoking and insightful. They are designed to challenge the reader to go a step beyond the passive reading most are accustomed to. Hacker's use of the French language is designed to add melody and rhythm to the poems, while forcing the reader to run and find a French-to-English dictionary. I'm not sure if this is a book I would choose for beginning poetry classes. It is a work that I would recommend for advance poetry fans and perhaps a women's literature course.
My personal favorite out of the collection is "English 182." The poem explores the emotions of an English professor (Hacker) attempting to gain some sense of her students. The speaker singles out a young African-American student that never participates in class discussions and eventually plagiarizes a paper. The speaker responds by reaching out to the student, by attempting to teach on African-American female poets.
The poem reaches out to me as a Black student because I have often felt isolated in all White classes, learning about figures that I cannot relate to. Despite the fact that the speaker does teach about Black women, it can be very difficult to speak up in a class where you are the only minority. It is my experience that many professors often feel that Black Students should feel obligated to speak out in class. They feel that if there is little representation of the Black race in the class, those few students should feel compelled to speak up for the entire population.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Julie Fay on January 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I'm glad there are some blank pages in the back of this book because it gives me a place to jot notes. What's happened around this book since it's publication-silence-(i.e. so few reviews) is part and partial/symptomatic of what the poet decries in her first poem-a prologue to the rest of the book-as the "abandoned dissident discourse" brought on by "leaden words like `Homeland.'"
Are reviewers too lazy, too busy, too afraid to take on the challenges a book like this puts forth? This book asks that we do our homework or that we be as well read, as engaged in the real world of current and past politics and policies as the author is. The book calls for each reader to write his/her own reader's guide (much as Hacker's earlier poem "Ballad of Ladies Lost and Found" demanded: "Make your own footnotes; it will do you good.")
Hacker's aim, in part, is to make us aware of the people, the public people, who populate her text, people such as June Jordon, Muriel Rukeyser, Audre Lorde, Neruda, Venus Khoury-Ghata, Hayden Carruth, all of them politically engaged poets who considered themselves charged, as poets, with the duty to speak out against the ills of the world around them. As Hacker does.
Poetry is for an elite few! Poof! This poetry is available to anyone who takes the time to read it-to shut off CNN, "Friends" and FOX News and delight in the sounds that cascade and roll over us and give us what the best poetry has forever: delight to the ear because of its musical/verbal genius, its use of assonance, consonance, rhyme of every kind, alliteration.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By yerra sugarman on July 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The emotional urgency, complexity and freshness of Marilyn Hacker's poems in her most recent collection DESESPERANTO (2003), work seamlessly and forcefully with their formal mastery and prosodic inventiveness. The originality of her rhyme and the pressure she places on her meter reinvigorate fixed forms to create a unique counterpoint with her poems' emotional power and the daring of their subject matter. The result is work that is always poignant, reflective, energetic and generous in its good-natured and unfaltering humanity by one of America's most important poets of social conscience, of the body and the body politic. This poetry allows us to enter the tonal range of the poet's griefs, joys and her meditative quandaries into the nature of these so that we may learn from her how we might have the courage to enter our own. Hacker, as always, opens new doors widely, showing us that to be socially engaged and personal, erudite and playful, intellectual and raw, a witness to the largest issues of our time and an incisive observer of the daily, passionate and inclusively human, while reworking form to make it her own, give rise to poetry that is among the most potent and necessary being written in English today. In her "Elegy to a Soldier," a sequence dedicated to the memory of poet/writer/scholar/activist June Jordan, Hacker weaves together the everyday details of a life intensely lived along with her own and Jordan's deeply metaphysical and political consciousness. The rawness of real life is savored and celebrated while also seen into and connected with a vision that burns through surfaces. Hacker writes, "Now your death, as if it were 'yours': your house, your / dog, your friends, your son, your serial lovers. / Death's not 'yours,' what's yours are a thousand poems / alive on paper...Read more ›
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