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Some Ether: Poems Paperback – May 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A troubled mother with a drug problem who ultimately commits suicide, her menacing boyfriends, and a wayward father populateAand come to dominateAFlynn's debut. In these 48 free verse narratives and lyrics framing a plain American vernacular, memory can seem almost a compulsion: "I don't want// to remember her/ reaching up for a kiss, or the television// pouring its blue bodies into her bedroom." Though many of the poems' recollections are considerably starker than these, Flynn never becomes overly graphic or macabre with this potentially overwhelming material, skirting unbridled confessionalism or mawkish sentimentality through quick successions of imagery. The drawback in Flynn's approach, however, is that it limits the poems to dramatization and description, and provides little room for more complex characterizations or insights about the small-scale tragedies depicted. Charged figurative language does make its way in, however, sometimes touched with surrealism. Such dazzling surface effects sometimes come off as mannered and opportunistic, as in a stylized dramatic monologue of the mother handling her gun, "the hard O of its mouth/ made of waiting, each bullet/ & its soft hood of lead. Braced// solid against my thigh, I'd feed it/ with my free hand, my robe open// as if nursing, practicing/ my hour of lead, my letting go." Flynn occasionally departs from such dramas, but the dark tone and themes of loss and impermanence persist through recurrent references to disastersAplane crashes, shipwrecks, floodsAthat can't quite expand the range of the poems. This first collection nevertheless presents an earnest sounding out of painful losses, and an honest feeling out of survival and selfhood. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This first collection is almost frightening in its honesty and reckless passion. Flynn writes tough, sad poetry that addresses a difficult childhood and a mother's suicide with unblinking faith that simply saying one's pain can tether it. There are droplets of bright, beautiful language throughout, as when "ghost stars convincingly stutter." Finally, one agrees with the author when he avows "infused with grace, by own voice/ floods the darkness."
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press; 1st Graywolf Printing edition (May 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555973035
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555973032
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #365,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nick Flynn is the award-winning author of Some Ether, Blind Huber, The Ticking is the Bomb and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, winner of the PEN/Martha Albrand Award. He divides his time between Texas, where he teaches at the University of Houston, and Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Cheney on December 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
When I first heard that Nick Flynn's book Some Ether was a collection of poems which dealt mostly which his mother's suicide, I decided I would probably avoid it. Yet another confessional poet writing about how awful his life has been just didn't appeal to me.
But then I looked at a copy. And immediately bought it. Because Flynn does something far more than just write about his childhood trauma -- he transforms this awful experience into a series of dry, deeply affecting meditations. It isn't unnecessarily depressing, and it certainly isn't self-pitying. These are poems which dig into the core of human experience and emotion.
Many of the poems are fragmentary or collage-like bursts of imagery, memory, reflection, dreams. A quick first reading lets you notice many beautiful or quirky lines ("I'm sick of God & his teaspoons"), but also makes you feel a bit like the reader of a collection of postcards and shopping lists sent from a psychiatric ward. It's a unique feeling. A closer reading, though, reveals the art. Reading the poems together, slowly, listening for the harmonies and discords, becomes an overwhelming experience. By the time you reach the last lines of the last poem -- "My fingers/ tangle your hair, trace/ your skull, your face so radiant// I can barely look into it." -- you have been through a full emotional journey, a sensual quest for meaning.
It's not a perfect collection, but it shouldn't be. Despite the high quality of their crafting, these poems are raw. There are gaps and crevices between them. Terrain such as this needs to be rough.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
It's a relatively easy thing to write from a safe and ironic distance about nothing; practically anyone can do it, as the MFA-mills have proven. It's much riskier (and potentially far more rewarding) to write with genuine feeling about the Big Bad, pounding on the door with its meat hook. Flynn isn't perfect--some of these poems jump the tracks at the crucial moment--but he ought to get points for having something difficult and meaningful to say, and mostly figuring out how to say it--unlike so many of the callow, academic-hearted poseurs that pretend to write poetry these days. We've forgotten, somehow, that mere cleverness is its own form of self-indulgence. Ironic detachment won't comfort us much in hard times; there are a few poems in this collection that might.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By eduardo C. corral on November 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
Having read Nick Flynn's poem "Bag of Mice" in a journal or online I couldn't wait to buy his first book. The poems in "Some Ether" deal with intense personal experiences, and I was afraid, the poems would suffer from this weight. They don't. The poems are beautiful in the sense that they are honest on the page-- by that I mean I know this is art, an artifical communication between body and soul yet the poems tell the truth of the moment they speak about. Does that make sense? I want other readers to know that these poems illustrate their world successfully because they don't wander away from it. This isn't a honesty that borders on confession or pleas for sympathy. This is a honesty that carefully draws out the painful-shocks of each event by making them into beautiful lines; lines that reimagine these moments because they were so powerfully felt that they need to be written down in order for the poems/art to continue.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Carolmuzik on January 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
I'm not as a general rule crazy about poetry.I don't pretend to know much about the artform of poetry,the variations in style and what makes a great poem from a technical point of view. I do know that when I picked up this book and read the poems in it, I cried....If a poem is meant to be a collection of words which is an intensely personal expression of something in the poet's life, and which can convey to the reader some of the emotion felt by the writer, then this collection succeeds in its purpose. I take issue with the reviews which described these works as whiny and self-serving, they nothing of the sort, nor are they trite. Though the life conveyed on these pages might have been deserving of pity, Nick never asks for it. To the "reviewer" who wanted something to lift her spirits, I would suggest that she go buy some Helen Steiner Rice or a book of "Love Is.." cartoons; it's not this poet's job to make you feel warm and fuzzy about suicide and sadness....This is not a sugar-coated view of the world, but one in which pain and sorrow stand on their own and are not denied; they are large part of our human experience whether we want to face that or not. If we are ever to have the chance of getting through our pain, we need to feel it. Nick makes you feel the sadness, and that brings release, as I hope it did for him....My income is not such that I am able to spend more than an hour's wages on a book, for any reason, unless I really find some value in it. My family and I were deeply touched by the poems in this collection...(PS... A few of these reviwers might want to learn how to spell before they presume to criticize another's work!)
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read most of the first books of poetry that come out, but this is the one I keep coming back to. I think it's fairly easily the best first book in the last ten years or so. Some dislike it, I know, because it's autobiographical, sincere and a times maybe a bit sentimental--things many first book poets, indoctrinated in a fear of "subjectivity" by their MFA programs and the editorial preferences of magazines edited by Iowa/New York hipsters, would rather die than risk being accused of. So this isn't yet another book striving to be linguistically or philosophically experimental (whether or not after Stein, Pound, Ashbery and the other modernists and postmodernists such writing is actually hopelessly derivative) or which guards its emotions like a Catholic school girl guards her virginity. This is simply work which sooner or later is going to crowd most everybody else off the table.
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