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Viper Rum Hardcover – April, 1998


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

It takes hubris to preface a negative critique of one's contemporaries with 45 pages of one's own verse, but Karr is a strong enough writer to pull it off. The Liar's Club (Viking, 1995), her best-selling memoir of growing up in Texas, is credited with having revived a genre; her third collection takes readers over much of the same autobiographical terrain-family, broken relationships, alcoholism, and suicide. This is confessional writing that conjures up the physical world: "On the mudroad of plodding American bodies/ my son wove like an antelope from stall/ to stall and want to want. I no'ed it all." The clarity and passion here are what Karr finds lacking in the overelaborate work of some of her colleagues, as she explains in the essay "Against Decoration," which first appeared in the journal Parnassus. Sharp and well written, it attacks, unfairly at times, the so-called neoformalists, language poets, James Merrill, Amy Clampitt, and John Ashbery (readers may wonder what Karr makes of Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, or Lewis Carroll). Ironically, one of the best poems here, about a Stairmaster, is almost Merrill-esque. Highly recommended anyway.?Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

Adieu
Animistic Anatomy
Beauty And The Shoe Sluts
Belongings
The Century's Worst Blizzard
Chosen Blindness
Christ's Passion
County Fair
Dead Drunk (or The Monster-maker At Work)
Domestic Ruins
Field Of Skulls
Four Of The Horsemen
The Grand Miracle
Hubris
Incant Against Suicide
The Invention Of God In A Mouthful Of Milk
The Last Of The Brooding Miserables
Lifecycle Stairmaster
Limbo: Altered States
Mall Crawl
Mr. D. Refuses The Blessing
The Pallbearer
The Patient
Requiem For The New Year
Revenge Of The Ex-mistress
Summons (or This Won't Hurt You A Bit, And It'll Cheer Me Up)
Terminus
Viper Rum
The Wife Of Jesus Speaks
-- Table of Poems from Poem Finder®

Hardboiled, hardedged, hardbitten--these are consummately American adjectives, and peculiarly American literary postures. Mary Karr's bracing, tight-lipped poems bring these terms to mind, but it's a credit to her probity and her prickly intelligence that one stops short of defining her by them. Avowedly unsentimental, Karr doesn't overcompensate by striking exaggerated poses of disabused wisdom or affecting mandarin disdain for the muddle of human relations. But like the late laureate of desolation [Larkin]..., Karr evidently holds that 'suffering is exact.' -- Poetry

Karr is an unsentimental realist whose capacity for pleasure and praise is all the more convincing for her clear-eyed view of contingency. -- The Harvard Book Review

Karr's grim wit and compressed, charged language seldom fail in Viper Rum's twenty-nine poems. -- The Hudson Review, Robert McDowell

Readers of The Liars' Club will find poetic versions of some of the same autobiographical material. -- Chicago Tribune

The poems of Viper Rum may be blunt for bluntness' sake, but they are not exploitative. -- The Georgia Review, Judith Kitchen

[A] terrific, plot-driven collection concerning themes that include alcoholism, religious belief, death, love, family, salvation, transformation....One cannot help but cheer. -- I>Harvard Review , Tina Barr
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"Ten Windows" by Jane Hirshfield
Hirshfield explores how poetry’s world-making takes place: word by charged word. By expanding what is imaginable and sayable, Hirshfield proposes, poems expand what is possible. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 78 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; First Edition edition (April 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081121382X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811213820
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,159,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mary Karr's first memoir, The Liar's Club, kick-started a memoir revolution and won nonfiction prizes from PEN and the Texas Institute of Letters. Also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, it rode high on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year, becoming an annual "best book" there and for The New Yorker, People, and Time. Recently Entertainment Weekly rated it number four in the top one hundred books of the past twenty-five years. Her second memoir, Cherry, which was excerpted in The New Yorker, also hit bestseller and "notable book" lists at the New York Times and dozens of other papers nationwide. Her most recent book in this autobiographical series, Lit: A Memoir, is the story of her alcoholism, recovery, and conversion to Catholicism. A Guggenheim Fellow in poetry, Karr has won Pushcart Prizes for both verse and essays. Other grants include the Whiting Award and Radcliffe's Bunting Fellowship. She is the Peck Professor of Literature at Syracuse University.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Mary Karr's work is a pleasant change from most of the newer poetry. It is a refreshingly emotional look at death and suicide. These themes weigh heavily in the first portion of the book yet are not overpowering, and actually serve to demonstrate well the mindset of a person with suicidal thoughts. In addition, she includes an intriguing insight into religious beliefs, subtly pointing out some of the hypocrycies therein. The second half of the work, a treatise on her neliefs of the role of poetry is also very valuable. She explains the need for emotional content in poetry and the necessity of clear presentation of these ideas. As a college student, I give the work high praise in that I will not sell the book at the end of the semester. Overall, it is well worth a glance.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By jessi_books on May 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I loved Mary Karr's memoirs, and I wanted to read more of her, but there always seems to be some mental block when I try to read poetry. Not here. I read the entire book, "Against Decoration" included, in two hours, and then read it again, and again. It's always a good sign when you read anything and your breath changes. Every one of these poems "stopped" me somehow, and the essay at the end made me grin and also fed the academic nerd in me. Karr mixes dirty and sweet in these beautiful, strong poems. You won't forget them.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By rackronnieroff on April 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed "The Devil's Tour" (Karr's other in-print book of poetry) so much, and bought "Viper Rum" as soon as I found it. I was not disappointed. Reflecting on loss in various forms, Karr says what she means, and says it beautifully.
No 'decoration' here - the poems prove that the poet's ideas presented in the essay "Against Decoration" (at the back of this book) work very well.
The idea of poetry is a wonderful thing. At some point in childhood I was taught that poetry consists of beautiful words which cut to the core of the matter and which strongly, easily move the reader's emotions in few words. This idea really stuck with me, but I have never found a poet who so completely fulfilled it (few even came close, really) until I read Mary Karr.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Hooray to Mary Karr! the first reason I bought the bookwas the wisdom of the line" we worship what we want", which is the foundation for the misdirection of American Spirituality.Then the second part of the book deals the pretenenous of the academic poetry movement in the hoity-toiety magazines and college sponsered quarterlies.References to Isoled and who the hell is tristan make me sick. A califoria poet nameed bukowski described the form best when he said" " you hold it up to the light and nothing comes through" Hooray for Mary Karr.There might be hope for some feeling in poetry yet.
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