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Self-Portrait with Crayon (CSU Poetry) Paperback


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Product Details

  • Series: CSU Poetry
  • Paperback: 63 pages
  • Publisher: Cleveland State University Poetry Center; 1st Ed. edition (March 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1880834839
  • ISBN-13: 978-1880834831
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #323,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

It's rare to find a book of poetry that makes a reader remember why one reads poetry, but Allison Benis White has written one. --Boston Review

How do these poems do what they do? Degas-rich, fear-rich, memory-rich, the tone of the book feels beautiful and rendered while simultaneously impulsive and storming...I can't get this book out of my head. --The Kenyon Review

I fell for these prose poems the moment I started to read them, and I liked them even more once I figured out their donnee...you could take her best sentences and print them separately as individual poems. --Stephen Burt, Rain Taxi

Allison Benis White's Self-Portrait with Crayon reaffirms the lyric poem's potential for rendering the impact of traumatic loss nearly visible. --H_NGM_N

"A fugitive mother haunts these prose poems where absences are presences that 'briefly in the air crown the shape of what is no longer there.' Although Degas -- another motherless child -- provides conceptual armature for Allison Benis White's portrayals, this book might be A Season in Hell for our times. Its descents, sudden and disorienting, exert enormous pressure; there's a narcosis of the depths in the voice, a refusal of return to mere surfaces that echoes Rimbaud. Yet White's poems are also intimate as a box of pins -- bright sharps she pricks into the map of orphan-world, to mark each site of betrayal and bewilderment." --Robert Hill Long, author of The Work of the Bow and The Effigies

"An oblique conversation with Degas reigns throughout this collection of oddly heartbreaking pieces. Against the backdrop of his paintings and sketches, we find ourselves in an intimate world, coherent but uncanny, where private memory becomes inseparable from the culture we hold in common, and all of it just barely cracked open, riven by interstices through which we glimpse the vivid but unsayable. White has given us a truly exceptional first collection, deeply musical and intricately haunting." --Cole Swensen, author of Ours and The Book of a Hundred Hands

"I found myself thinking of Frost as I read these beautifully disturbing poems -- 'The whole great enterprise of life, of the world, the great enterprise of our race, is our penetration into matter, deeper and deeper, carrying the spirit deeper into matter.' Allison Benis White does just that, pulsing between a childlike wonder at the things of this world, and a seemingly hard-earned self-consciousness at the difficulty in naming them -- in these poems a mother is missing, a God is to be feared, the snow is broken, and yet, 'maybe this is enough: to lose.' This is an amazing debut." --Nick Flynn, author of Some Ether and Blind Huber





About the Author

Allison Benis White is the author of Small Porcelain Head, selected by Claudia Rankine for the Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry, and Self-Portrait with Crayon, winner of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Iowa Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. She teaches at the University of California, Irvine.

More About the Author

Allison Benis White is the author of Small Porcelain Head, selected by Claudia Rankine for the Four Way Books Levis Prize, and Self-Portrait with Crayon, winner of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, and Ploughshares, among other journals. Her honors include the Indiana Review Poetry Prize, the Bernice Slote Award from Prairie Schooner, and a Writers Exchange Award from Poets & Writers. She teaches at the University of California, Irvine.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Belmar on March 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
I have an earlier version of this book when it was still called Curtainfall and still coming up as a runner-up or not at all in the contests. At the time, I was struggling to write painfully narrative prose poems for a professor who thought there was no such thing as a poem in prose. Curtainfall then offered me a sense of permission, a sense of possibility for poems beyond the confines of my workshops. But Allison's poems weren't experimental, new age junk either---while the line danced around in pleasingly surprising ways, it was grounded by a careful, loving instinct for what's always made great art: going after the heart of the heart, the searing white center of what it means to be human. These poems are brave and vulnerable while maintaining an essential kindness. It's Allison's empathy for our rawest parts, for the various ways we fail one another and our ourselves, that leads this collection through our competing desires with our dignity intact.

I reread this collection again this morning and found my breath still catching on poems I've carried across the country in four different moves. You only get a few of these in a lifetime, the books that make you feel alive and less alone and flooded with excitement because it IS enough just to get it down right. Just to say it. To bear witness to the dark and quiet folds of our ordinary lives. I love this book the way some people might a fancy car or a small child, and I could gush about it for a long time. But mostly, what I want to say is thank god that someone is around to write like this.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kathryn Stevenson on October 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
Above all, Allison Benis White's collection of poems _Self-Portrait with Crayon_ teaches us the simple, unforgettable maxim: pain is reach.

The collection begins with what is gone: "The hidden are alone too. I crouched in the closet, between my mother's skirts and shoes, where the legs should be" (5). Without a body, clothes outline lack, their shapes marking boundaries between body and disembodiment: "The shoulders are the span of the hanger and the mind is the hook which suspends the entire dress" (5). The image of the mind reduced to a hook does not speak of pain, but we get it.

Here, the thing gestures toward an idea, a non-thing, one cannot otherwise hold. In this sense, the thing--a closet, a dress, a hanger--allows connection, a sudden narrative snap: "People lose their minds and leave in the middle of cooking salmon" (5). This reach--the move to connect loss to a moment, a kitchen, the smell of a pink-bodied fish--rises from the compulsion to anchor ourselves in the material world, ground ourselves in the sediment of objects, and attach to some small, real thing before we are capable of consolation: "I will tell you something quietly: we tried to send her a birthday card, but it was returned, wrong address. It is common to know very little, if anything" (5).

A salmon dinner, a birthday card, a wrong address--these are the cold, hard things that punch, punctuating our otherwise amorphous and mass-less despair. Yet they are the details that allow us to articulate and imagine--here, though, sketch--what is otherwise unspeakable and unimaginable.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The prose poem format permits the free accumulation of intense, spare images... these are stunning and right, especially in the way that certain long sequences connect, suddenly illuminating intricate spaces. I'm neither a professional reviewer nor have I met the author... I was just lucky enough to happen across this book by chance.
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By Osiris on November 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is what drove me to begin trying prose poetry. White is amazing. She also came to campus and I got her to sign my book. It is currently one of my favorite poetry books. As long as you can appreciate literature, you will like at least some of the poems in this collection.
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