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Shadow of Heaven: Poems Hardcover – February, 2002

4 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dominated by mourning and memory, Voigt's grave, accessible sixth book of verse excels her previous work while building on its strengths. The stark poems that open the volume examine dreams, apple trees, winter fields and (perhaps most impressively) the Himalayas, in a ghazal which is also a tribute to the contemporary poet Agha Shahid Ali. All these glimpses and points-of-view bring into relief Voigt's concentration on illness, dying and grief. Voigt (a National Book Critics Circle finalist for Kyrie) grew up in the South, and her natural details have always linked her to an older tradition of Southern American verse "the deep South a clearer paradigm," as her new sonnet sequence explains. Her everyday details balance abstract, pared-down emotional insights, general truths that recall Louise Glick. "The dead shut just shut up," begins one memorable poem, "High Winds Flare Up and the Old House Shudders"; another considers "our lucky/ or unlucky lost, of whom/ we never speak." More casual work near the back of the book includes translations of Horace's Odes and long considerations of backyard animals, as well as a long, talky elegy for the poet Larry Levis. The well-made, soft-spoken free verse in these final poems will please aficionados of Voigt's early work. Readers will return more often, however, to the clear voice in the first sections: "Calm came into the dream, unburdened as snow./ It sugared the rocks, the rock-encircled trees."

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Voigt's disciplined poems are scrubbed clean, exact in their forms, and calm in tone, refined distillations of deep feelings and long meditations on nature and life as seen flourishing in wondrous manifestations right in her own backyard. These are classical works, and Voigt lays her cards on the table by paying homage to Horace and his odes, models of balance and precision. Like her mentor, Voigt is aware of death hovering in the wings, and, indeed, illness, injury, and age work their bent and burdened ways into her poems; yet the poet remains undaunted, continuing to take profound pleasure in gazing at trees and flowers, gardening, and participating in various kitchen activities, from careful conversations between adult sisters living very different lives to the affectionately aggressive banter among men happy to sit down to a good meal. Deceptive in their hominess and welcoming clarity, Voigt's poems are thoroughly considered creations in which every word, no matter how humble, is worth its weight in gold. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 72 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (February 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393041476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393041477
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,242,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Ellen Bryant Voigt's "Shadow of Heaven" is a moveable feast of words and images that have great "carrying" power. I love poems that you read and then carry those words and images with you through the day - and weeks and years - after you read them. A fine example is *The Others* on Page 23. This poem alone is worth the price of admission and I promise you will never look at Michelangelo's Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel ceiling the same way again.
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By Sesho on October 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As I read Ellen Bryant Voight's book of poems, Shadow of Heaven, I thought to myself that she was a very good descriptive writer and painter of mood. I mean, I felt "something" but when you look at her poems, a lot of the times they make no sense. The poems are uneven, with there being some great ones, but interspersed with ones that are average. I liked one called "Practice":
"To weep unbidden, to wake
at night in order to weep, to wait
for the whisker of the face of the clock
to twitch again, moving
the dumb day forward-"
There's a lot of poems in here that condemn the acceptance of situations. Whether it's a stale marriage that people just stay in because they feel safe in it or condemn some source of spirtual sterility. One almost feels if you are reading a "mini-Blake", there is so much righteous anger boiling under the brim of this nature poet.
There is a great satiric poem in here called "Plaza del Sol" which pokes fun with some amount of disgust at all the ugly out of shape human beings as they bask their bloated bodies on a beach in Florida.
While there are some poems touching on foreign lands and some half-baked fairy tales, Voight stays much the personal poet who has more talent in describing the workings of nature rather than the relationships between human beings. If Voight could somehow become more clear on what she was trying to say, she would be a great poet.
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