From Publishers Weekly
Laux's fluent and likable first person shoots straight on sex, relationships and American adulthood in this substantial and unusually various fourth collection. The Oregon poet opens with a funny, compassionate political poem about urban mass transit, segues to "Vacation Sex" ("We've been at it all summer") and then to a meditation on the flag of Alaska, designed (as Laux explains) by a 13-year-old orphan 78 years ago. If she casts a wide net for subjects, Laux (Smoke
) shows equal breadth with her free verse forms; the most accomplished tend to use long lines, and to digress, tersely and thoughtfully, from their narrative threads. Describing her marriage, her Western travels and her erotic history as girl and woman, Laux works in the idiom of Philip Levine and Sharon Olds, yet Laux's best verse is perhaps more surprising than theirs: if she occasionally sounds lugubrious, more often she makes "new cells pungent with the old codes." Laux has not invented a new style, but she has improved the one she has: "It took me years to grow a heart," Laux quips, "from paper and glue"; her verse certainly draws on it. (Nov.)
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"Laux writes gritty, tough, lyrical poems that depict the actual nature of life in the West today."
To understand why her work is so widely read and admired, listen to the music Dorianne Laux makes, line after line....She is quick-witted and compassionate, with a genius for phrasing that never compromises the perfect clarity of her text....Continually engaging and, at her best, luminous. --Steve Kowit"