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Space, In Chains (Lannan Literary Selections) Paperback – March 15, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Frightening in its confrontations with death—that of a father and, eventually, of everything—Kasischke's new work is also ambitiously exhilarating: everything in life and literature, it seems, could come before her eye, could end up in a poem—"the terror of foxes./ And the children's hospital./ And the hangman's alarm clock," even "Lazarus, who surely never dared/ to lay his head/ on a pillow/ and close his eyes again." Known for her representations of mothers and teenagers in her poems and in her many novels, Kasischke now takes equal interest in illness and old age: rightly celebrated for her irregular, spiky, and intricately rhyming lines, Kasischke has now extended her interest (begun with her last book, Lilies Without) in the prose poem, using its fragments for recollection—"the ridiculous cheerfulness of sunflowers, the drifting immemorial ashes of the blueprints, the soup grown cold." For all its length and all its lists, the volume ends up tightly, almost wrenchingly focused on the omnipresence of suffering, the fact of mortality and the persistence of grief. Some readers might call it melodramatic; many more ought to call it symphonic, perceptive, profound. (Mar.)
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About the Author

Laura Kasischke: Laura Kasischke’s most recent book of poetry was Lilies Without (Ausable Press, 2007). She has published six other collections of poems, as well as seven novels. She was a Guggenheim Fellow for 2009, and lives in Chelsea, Michigan, where she teaches at the University of Michigan in the MFA program and Residential College.

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Product Details

  • Series: Lannan Literary Selections
  • Paperback: 110 pages
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press; First Edition edition (March 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556593333
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556593338
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.5 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #580,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Refreshingly uncomplicated stuff, in some ways. Kasischke is also a novelist, the biographical note in the back says, and I think it shows - the poems start at point A, goes through its variations, and ends at a definite, farther point. The endings aren't earth shattering, but they're definite endings that belong to the poems. And going back to the collection now, I'm surprised by the prevalence of alliteration and assonance, exact and slant rhymes, and repetitions of phrases and lines - in short, all the usual accoutrement of verse, as opposed to prose. There's also an interesting rhythm to the poems, where short lines are contrasted against long lines (which don't lose their energy), and long lines become prose-poem paragraphs (or really, really long lines?). It's unusual and great, all for being so unfussy, I think. As a reviewer noted in the New York Times, this is a very sure hand, relaxed because it is in control.

But Kasischke's main weapon is the lovely and lovingly surreal image. At times (such as in "My son practicing the violin"), I find the images a little too indulgent, but most of the time they're effective and memorable by being strange yet not wildly strange or bizarre. Time for a long quotation to show what I'm saying:

"Pharmacy"

A knife plunged into the center
of summer. Air

and terror, which become teeth together.

The pearl around which the sea
formed itself into softly undulating song--

This tender moment when my father
gives a package of cookies to my son.

They have been saved
from the lunch tray
for days.

Hook
in a sponge. The expressions on both of their faces.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An excellent collection by Laura Kasischke with many fine lines and poems. There are moments where the collection lags with a few uneven spots, but Kasischke always redeems the waiting on the next page or two.

Some of the parts that struck me, some for their elogquence, some for their simplicity:

"A girl in a bed trying to tune the AM radio to the voices of the dead."

"... the soldiers marching across some flowery field in France bear their own soft pottery in their arms—heart, lung, abdomen."

"as if the worship of a thing might be the thing that breaks it."

"The wind has toppled the telescope over onto the lawn: So much for stars. Your brief shot at the universe, gone."

"Bright splash of blood on the kitchen floor. Astonishing red. (All that brightness inside me?)"

"And my father ringing the bell for the nurse in the night, and then not even the bell. Ringing the quiet. Waiting in the silence"

"Believable, chronological, but so quickly erased that it only serves to prove that the universe is made of curving, warping space."

"When I built my luminous prison around you, you simply lay down at the center of it and died."

"Who knew those bees were making honey of our grief?"
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Like this woman with a bucket in the morning gathering gorgeous oxymora on the shore." As her title suggests, Laura Kasischke loves the tingle and challenge of a good oxymoron. Here is the opening poem intact, a paragraph of lyrical prose entitled (as is one of the later verse poems also) "O elegant giant":

"And Jehovah. And Alzheimer. And a diamond of extraordinary size in the hand of a starving child. The quiet mob in a vacant lot. My father asleep in a chair in a warm corridor. While his boat, the Unsinkable, sits at the bottom of the ocean. While his boat, the Unsinkable, waits marooned on the shore. While his boat, the Unsinkable, sails on, and sails on."

She says one thing, and then seems to contradict it with another. Five of the poems are called "Riddle," and even most of those not so called are difficult to understand at first. Generally with a poetry collection, I pick a poem at random, study it, and move to another. Here, I got almost nowhere until I had read through the entire set of 82 poems like a novel, barely comprehending, but drinking it in nonetheless. Sometimes, I'd bookmark a couple of things, like these lines from a poem entitled "My son makes a gesture his mother used to make":

"He does it again. The sun, like the drifting ashes of a distant past. The petals of some exploded yellow roses.

The miracle of it.
The double helix of it.
The water running uphill of it.
Such pharmacy, in a world which failed her! She died before he was even alive, and here she is again, shining in his eyes."

But then I began to notice themes.
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It took me two readings to fall in love with this book, for puzzlement at the images and lines of the poems, which are often associative, to click into place. It's interesting that another reviewer sees the work of a novelist in the poems. For me, the poems act more like dreams and intuition. Like the great Charles Simic, Kasischke bundles together odd images and ideas that burst like tiny epiphanies. Here are some lines that I love, for instance: "the nightingales feasted on fairy tales,/the angels stuffed themselves with fog." The assonance brings such music to the lines, and the oxymoron-like detail of bodiless angels stuffing themselves with something as intangible as fog is just haunting.

I appreciate, also, that Kasischke writes about faith in non-sentimental, non-simplistic ways. She arrives at God from a slant angle, as in the lines: "The humming gold of being, and ceasing to be. The exposed motor of eternity" (from "Wasps"). Or the graceful poem "My son practicing the violin," which includes the Mary Oliver-ish line "Such love, and such music, it's a wonder Jesus doesn't make me spend every/waking hour on my knees" but then moves from that familiar idea to the final stanza, "Even the paper cup in my hand has learned to breathe. And each note is a beautiful, ancient kingdom precariously balanced at the edge of a cliff above the sea."

The book could be shorter, yes, but I'm not willing to argue with Kasischke about what should be left out. The poems about the deaths of her parents are intensely moving. Other poems are wry and witty. Beneath all of the poems, an intelligence and courage, despite the pain, doubt, and fear.
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