Carolyn Kizer writes with wit and, well, it's not a word I use a lot, but panache.
I've always admired her light verse and wry observations (from "Suppressing the Evidence": "I do not turn on the news. / I and the wine will blot it out."), but I've also come to appreciate the depth in her more serious work. "An American Beauty" addresses a friend's battle with cancer, and uses form very well to heighten both the tension and empathy of the reading experience. The title of this collection refers both to the musicality of Kizer's writing and to the harpy-like sting in some of her work.
From Publishers Weekly
Kizer's distinctly irreverent voice, left-leaning politics and mastery of the poetic craft are all showcased in this selection of her poetry and translations spanning a decade. Her frequent use of first-person narrative sounds a more autobiographical than confessional tone. The speaker (who calls herself, in "Fin-de-Siecle Blues," an "old lady") considers her past: youthful hatred of Franco while visiting his war memorial; a longtime friend's battle with cancer and death; and figures from childhood such as a beloved, inscrutable Swedish nanny. Along the way, Kizer employs everything from slanted rhymes to venerable forms like the villanelle and pantoum with a chatty grace that makes the intricacy of her structures all but invisible. Some poems emit a clear whiff of political correctness; e.g., "On a Line from Valery," which takes the French poet's line, "Tout le ciel vert se muert," and turns it into a lament for the environmental destruction brought by the Gulf War. Usually, however, Kizer's ample wit and formal dexterity distinguish her as a poet not merely of sensitivity but, more importantly, of fine sensibility. She is absolutely in her element when translating?and spoofing the act thereof. "In Hell with Virg and Dan," her version of Dante's Canto VXII, was rejected?"quite properly," she concedes?from the Ecco Press's volume of contemporary poets' translations of The Inferno for "not fitting in." In it, she wields her so-called "Antique Hipster" style: "Yo, Dan, just give a look at this repulsive creature/ Called Fraud, the wall-buster; He's the prime polluter." This is priceless, quintessential Kizer.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.