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Toxic Flora: Poems Paperback – October 3, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Hahn's eighth book of poems takes its inspiration from the science section of the New York Times. These sharp, gut-punching lyrics quote from and/or borrow the diction of science writing in order to investigate more personal issues, including the traumas of girlhood, adolescence, and family in general, as well as the intricacies of love. But the real thrill comes not from Hahn's personal revelations but from the ways they dovetail so surprisingly with contemporary scientific observations: "What does this demonstrate about toxins/ or residence?" she asks in the title poem, about a butterfly that has evolved poison to deter predators, "Or carrying around a portion of the childhood home// where the father instructs the daughter on the uses of poison/ then accuses her of being so potent?" Elsewhere, science illuminates wounds that can't be overcome: "the constant banging and colliding of planetoids/ creates new dust," notes Hahn (The Artist's Daughter) in "Stardust." "Fascinating," she continues, "all this debris/ circulating in our own fringes,/ giving rise to zodiacal light// and a reason for developing sharper telescopes:// the father spanking the ten-year-old/ just out of the shower// and because she already had breast buds// she didn't want anyone to look." Other poems meditate on water, the planets, and birds in what may be Hahn's best book to date.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“She is a superb lyric poet.” — Gerald Stern

Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (October 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393341143
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393341140
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.4 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,174,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paolo & Francesca on August 28, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Toxic Flora, the strange and the familiar, the natural and unnatural, come together in startling and miraculous ways. In poem after poem, Hahn's meditations of the natural world segue seamlessly into insights about family life, relationships, and identity. The alienness of flowers that smell like flesh to attract bugs, or the ruthlessness of a praying mantis that eats its mate after copulation, become unsettlingly intimate when these poems make them metaphors of human nature. In "Sibling Rivalry" the warring wasp larvae that attack each other is compared to "siblings that obliterate everyone over dinner conversation." I love the very moving "Pinguinis Impennis" where the last pair of great auks is beaten to death in order to supply feathers for feather beds. "What dreams are worth such extinction?" the speaker laments, "And are they dreams I'd wish to own?" I like the longer poems such as "Demeter's Cuttings" which explores the relationship between a mother and daughter as the daughter grows up and begins leaves the mother, as well as "The Sweetwater Caverns" where the speaker articulates secret longings while within the confines of family life and middle age. In these poems the natural world opens up the inner landscape and make these psychological dramas more concrete and tragic. In many poems I wish the poems dwelled a little bit longer on the subject matter and opened them up further. Most of these poems are short, with irregular lines and paragraph breaks which gives them a kind of tense quality. The abundance of stanza breaks creates a lot of silence and staccato in these poems, so that instead of reading the lines fluidly to the end, you stop and start a lot, putting greater emphasis at the beginning of each couplet.Read more ›
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Poetry Lover on January 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A beautifully produced and intriguing book that proves a good poet can make poetry out of any subject. A winner!
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