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Now You're the Enemy: Poems (University of Arkansas Press Poetry Series) Paperback – February 15, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“From the 'unspeakable cliffs' that govern the landscape of damage (both physical and psychological) and of a belief in a life past that-a belief in rescue-James Allen Hall has looked into those spaces ‘where love is / only love if it makes you bleed.’ And from what he has found there, he has crafted these riveting poems, by turns searing and forgiving, iconoclastic and-unexpectedly, as if in spite of themselves-sacred. Now You're the Enemy is a stirring, triumphant debut.” —Carl Phillips, author of Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006 “James Hall is possessed by the family romance, in particular the figure of a difficult mother who looms on his imaginative stage. ‘I was,’ he writes, ‘mothered into art.’ And then some: Hall’s poems are psychically charged, nervy, both measured and fevered, compassionate and outrageous, and alive to the very core.” —Mark Doty, author of Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems “Now You’re the Enemy is a brilliant exploration of the structure of feeling. This debut collection, in an astonishing sleight of hand, inflates representation in order to deflate the inner screen that provides both the darkness and the monsters.” —Claudia Rankine, editor of American Poets in the 21st Century: The New Poetics

From the Inside Flap

A family in the aftermath of violence These raw and powerful poems have at their heart the charged, archetypal figure of the mother. Conflicted by the twin desires of self-destruction and self-preservation, this mother is both terrible and beautiful. This compassionate, nervy collection of poems shows a family in the aftermath of violence. James Allen Hall explores themes of loss, the intersection of grief and desire, and the ways in which history, art, and politics shape the self. We meet the speaker's mother in many guises-she is the rogue Republic of Texas, the titular character of Rosemary's Baby, a nineteenth century artist's model, a fake entry in an encyclopedia, the lost queen of King Lear. With clarity, wit, and compassion, the speaker discovers the facets of his mother-her own abuse, her years of adultery, her struggle to remain independent-so that he may come to terms with his own sexuality. By seeing his mother in these guises, the speaker understands identity as it develops along and is reclaimed from the most repressive of social margins. Hall's poems twine the autobiographical impulse with a deeper emotional, somewhat surreal, temperament. This is a book as much about the way we tell our stories as it is about the stories we tell. Now You're the Enemy negotiates narrative in order to refashion the self-as a way to survive, to learn the redemptive power of love.
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Product Details

  • Series: University of Arkansas Press Poetry Series
  • Paperback: 74 pages
  • Publisher: University of Arkansas Press (February 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155728864X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557288646
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,527,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
James Allen Hall, <strong>Now You're the Enemy</strong> (University of Arkansas Press, 2008)

It makes sense that obsession can be a driving force for creativity, and one sees it everywhere, if one knows how to look at such things. (Everyone's aware Stephen King has a thing about kids, right?) When you get into shorter forms of art, however, delving into the obsessions of a particular artist can either be a phantasmagoric-though-brilliant experience (cf. Richard Siken's <em>Crush</em>, once of the best books of poetry of the last decade, or the complete works of Swans frontman Michael Gira) or they can be like eating frozen lemonade concentrate; sour but delicious in small amounts, but you get to the point pretty quick where you need to vary the taste before it gets old. It doesn't help matters much when the obsession you're cultivating is trod so well there are grooves in the linoleum, and Hall's got the oldest one of all: mom.

"My mother runs even before she's upright,
out the unlocked door, down the concrete stoop,

pulling up her pants, over the lawn,
into the Sunday traffic, waving her hands,

saying <em>Help</em> in a voice she does not recognize."
("Portrait of My Mother as Self-Inflicting Philomena")

"Portrait of My Mother As [X]" is a frequent title in this volume, and while occasionally it gets used in a creative or amusing way ("Portrait of My Mother As the Republic of Texas" is actually the book's best piece, witty, clever, not at all maudlin), after a while it's like listening to forty-five-minute techno dance remixes of bad pop songs--thump thump thump thump thump thump thump thump repeat, and with bad lyrics on top. But even the worst bad pop songs usually have a line or two that's hooky enough to keep you listening, and so it is with Hall's book; the good pieces here are very good, and as long as you're willing to put up with the rest, they make it worth a read. ** ½
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