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A Kiss in Space: Poems Paperback – October 24, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

Encapsulated within each of Mary Jo Salter's poems is a story. There are characters (the poet, her children, her parents, friends) and events (a balloon ride outside of Paris, an afternoon spent listening to Puccini, an evening in front of the television). And there is a strong narrative theme--enough to fill a whole novel--in every poem. In "Libretto," for example, Salter describes her first introduction to opera under her mother's tutelage, foreshadowing within the first few lines the melancholy end of this story: "but why are we alone? / Were Daddy and my brothers gone / all day, or has memory with its flair / for simple compositions air- / brushed them from the shot?" Mother and daughter sit on "an ivory silk couch that doesn't fit / the life she's given in Detroit" and listen to the strains of Madame Butterfly while gazing out the window at the neighbors' two-car garages. Ominously, Salter reports, "It's 1962 / and though I'm only eight, I know / that with two cars, people can separate."

Some of Salter's most powerful poems concentrate on the prosaic: "A Leak Somewhere" describes a family watching an old movie about the Titanic on television. But Salter invests even this safe domestic drama with vague unease as the parents, having put the children to bed, are overcome with a sense

that hidden in the house a fine
crack--nothing spectacular,
only a leak somewhere--is slowly
widening to claim each of us
in random order, and we start to rock
in one another's arms.
These poems are deceptively simple: one doesn't have to read them several times to understand their point. Yet the intelligence behind them--the careful choice of images, the way detail upon detail accretes like amber hardening around an insect to form a whole universe in microcosm--makes these very complex works, indeed. A Kiss in Space is eloquent, elegant, and a pleasure to read and reread. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A casual yet authoritative confidence in formal verse's storytelling capabilities, like that of Rachel Hadas or James Merrill, is evinced by this fourth collection, following Salter's well-received Sunday Skaters. Although the poet's need to mourn "little parts of the selves/ I can't be part of anymore" can seem precious, her believability as "somebody whose idea of/ reality requires a glance, over morning coffee, at violence" will still find, and merit, admirers. Quotidian existence in Paris and New England, a dominant theme, is registered with quiet heaps of internal rhyme: "hail hobbled us as we ran/ across the cobblestones"; "as soon as one leaf's off the tree/ no day following can fall free/ of the drift of melancholy." Memorably smart moments are the belated elegy for Louis MacNeice, "master of the refrain" and the long poem "Alternating Currents" which recalls Cynthia MacDonald's work in its moves from scenes of Helen Keller's childhood education to the duos of Holmes and Watson, and Graham Bell and his assistant Watson, and investigates how different modes of communication shape the messages they transmit. With carefully crafted images, the lead poem, "Fire-Breathing Dragon," intimates the fragility of life and of life-telling, recounting a hot air balloon trip over Chartres: "the tinted,/ interlocking shapes of crops/ became a story in stained glass/ our shadow could fall into." Like Salter's other books, this Kiss is poised, nobleAto use a favored wordAand humane.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (October 24, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037570499X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375704994
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,027,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Patty K. Mooney on June 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This fourth collection of poetry from Mary Jo Salter comes like a dragon's breath of hot air--filling a balloon then lifting it and its occupants (we, the readers) to sail far above the expanses of Salter's lucid imagination. Thus our ride begins.
We are there, raising our champagne glasses along with Salter, as hundreds of balloons rise over Chartres. We stay at her side--happily--as she touches down on her lifetime and those of historical and fictional figures: Alexander Graham Bell, Helen Keller, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
We head into space for the kiss. We even come upon a gang of kangaroos "like flustered actors who don't know what to do with their hands... who look properly stunned when our typecast tour bus, bumptious as a cousin none of them invited, raises a ruckus of flung stones and dust and scrapes to a halt before them, face to face."
These encounters with nature, history, fiction, family, animals and the elusive self--is each a kiss in space-- and never a mere peck on the cheek.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By on June 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
A Kiss in Space is a major drop in quality of work. Anyone who has read Salter's books Sunday Skaters or Unfinished Paintings knows Salter is a top notch poet, but A Kiss in Space is just not up to the standard I'm used to seeing from her. I hope her latest book is back up there.
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