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Lizzie Borden in Love: Poems in Women's Voices (Crab Orchard) Paperback – August 23, 2006

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Product Details

  • Series: Crab Orchard
  • Paperback: 88 pages
  • Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press; 1st edition (August 23, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809327252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809327256
  • Product Dimensions: 0.3 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,368,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Julianna Baggott amazes with the scope of her imagination. Part biographer, part ventriloquist, part genius, she inhabits characters we thought we knew—from Katharine Hepburn toHelen Keller. In reopening their lives, she is reopening history, retelling it intimately and urgently and wisely in the voices of the women themselves.Baggott's talent is almost spooky. Lizzie Borden in Love is a dangerous and elegant collection from one of America's finest young poets.”        —Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Great with Child and Tender Hooks

“With crispness and casual elegance, Baggott inhabits a startling variety of personalities and idioms. These monologues are always humanist, poetic without being poeticized, and unpreachily feminist.”—Daisy Fried, author of My Brother Is Getting Arrested Again

“Baggott's positively oracular channeling of voices as diverse as Camille Claudel and Monica Lewinsky is so canny and artfully authentic that it seems possible that the poet here has truly acted as a spiritual medium for the muted and misrepresented voices she illuminates. This is a brilliant book and an essential read for both lovers of poetry and scholars wishing to understand the inheritance of silence that is the complicated birthright of contemporary women artists everywhere.”—Erin Belieu, author of One Above and One Below and Black Box

Julianna Baggott's second volume of poetry, the 2006 Editor's Choice winner from the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, is written in the voices of women ranging from Mary Todd Lincoln to Monica Lewinsky. Each poem situates its speaker in a particular historical moment: Lizzie Borden ad­dresses the male jury at her murder trial; Mary Rockwell contemplates her son's fencing injury; Camille Claudel speaks from her studio and from the mental asylum where she was a patient. Whether the speakers in these poems are angry, grieving, desperate, or resigned, they all are armed with eloquence and insight into the circumstances that have shaped their lives, including societal expectations of feminine behavior. Arguing her inno­cence, Lizzie Borden uses these conventions to her advantage, reminding the jurors:

We ladies only know what we are taught.

We are your creations:

  porcelain hands, hearts sublime.

We are not real-that's why

            there were no footprints in the dust: We float

In "Ida Saxton McKinley, the First Lady, Seizes during a Dinner Party," the speaker describes epilepsy as both "stored grief released / violently into the air" and "a secret pleasure." Explaining her illness to her hus­band, she notes:

The newspapers will call it a fainting spell­

How delicate! How ladylike!

But this rugged habit is fit for cowboys.

(Do not look at me with your round eyes.)

Electric, one doctor said.

(Am I now a modem contrivance?)

McKinley values the "comfort" she derives from her seizures and the opportunity to escape her husband's-and the public's-expectations of proper behavior, which extend even as far as diagnosis-fainting spells are deemed more appropriate for a First Lady than epileptic seizures. Both poems highlight one of Baggott's strengths; the women in her poems speak with irony and humor as well as with anger or resentment. They also are well aware of their own complicity and guilt; while several of Baggott's subjects have entered the historical record as victims, the women in these poems do not see themselves as such.


The strongest poems in the collection are those in which the speakers address a specific, rather than a generalized audience; the poems ad­dressed to other women are especially powerful because they allow their speakers to exist apart from the famous men in many of these women's lives. In "Dorothy Day's Daughter, Pregnant with Her Ninth Child, Begs Her Mother for Charity: A Bedtime Prayer," " the speaker confesses:

As a little girl,

I hated the smitten poor who followed you,

hauling their sun-boiled faces and stench.

       But see how you have forced me
to become one? How else to be loved by you?

By countering Day's career as a charity worker with the suffering of her daughter's family, Baggott's poem revises the historical record to allow for a more complicated portrait of Day, one that is less flattering but more accurate. Although a few of the poems in this volume are less surprising than a reader might hope, Baggott has crafted a gorgeous collection of poems that succeeds in clarifying and expanding the historical record. "Marie Curie Gives Advice to Her Daughter Irene before Her Wedding" concludes with the lines: "My hope, daughter, is that / what you love doesn't come to kill you, / eye by eye, ear by ear, bone by radiant bone." Baggott's poems succeed in illuminating the interiors of her speakers' consciousnesses and of history itself.

(Carrie Shipers Praire Schooner 2008-07-07)

About the Author

Julianna Baggott is the author of the collection of poems This Country of Mothers (published by Southern Illinois University Press) and four novels—the national bestseller Girl Talk, The Miss America Family, The Madam, and Which Brings Me to You: A Novel in Confessions, cowritten with Steve Almond. She also writes novels for younger readers under the pen name N. E. Bode. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications including the Best American Poetry series, Glamour, Ms., Poetry, and TriQuarterly. Baggott holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and teaches at Florida State University in the Creative Writing Program and Film School. She lives in Florida with her husband and their three children.

More About the Author

Critically acclaimed, bestselling author, Julianna Baggott -- who also writes under the pen names Bridget Asher (The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted) and N.E. Bode (The Anybodies) -- has published 17 books, including novels for adults, younger readers, and collections of poetry. Her latest novel, PURE, is the first of a trilogy; film rights have sold to Fox2000 -- Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Best American Poetry, Best Creative Nonfiction, Real Simple, on, as well as read on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" and "Here and Now." Her novels have been book-pick selections by People Magazine's summer reading, Washington Post book-of-the-week, a Booksense selection, a Boston Herald Book Club selection, and a Kirkus Best Books of the Year list. Her novels have been published in over 50 overseas editions. She's a professor in the Creative Writing Program at Florida State University and the founder of the nonprofit Kids in Need - Books in Deed. For more, visit

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Meli Sufari on July 26, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First, let me say that I discovered Julianna Baggott in Third Coast - a journal out of Michigan. I fell in love. I went on a search to learn more about my "new" favorite poet and discovered the lizzie borden book and immediately ordered it. I devoured it upon arrival and called my three best friends, (also poets) and suggested that they buy it, too. I read a couple of pieces over the phone to my poet friends and they orderd the book, too. The work is simply alive, though the majority of the women the poems are about are not. Norman Rockwell's wife, Helen Keller, Monica Lewinsky and of course Lizzie Borden are present among others. The poems are biographical fiction - Baggott paints tender, raw, angry, forlorn portraits. These poems are written so well that they ring's easy to forget that they are poems and not pieces of autobiography. There is technique here, and patience with word choice and image. The closing piece, about Helen Keller, is worth the price of the book alone. I cannot recommend this book enough... I recommend it to everyone I talk to who's looking for a new poet (or not!).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Aphra Wannabe on April 1, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Julianna Baggott writes outstanding fiction (for adults amd children) but she was first and still an outstanding poet. This one speaks from the voices of women from Lizzie Borden to Mary Todd Lincoln - and each poem is true to the speaker while touching the reader who may have nothing in common with the woman.
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