From Publishers Weekly
Named for a WWII airbase in the South Atlantic used by the U.S., journalist Eliza Griswold's poetic debut tracks round-trip missions through disaster, both personal and national, from the aftermath of a crumbled marriage to the minefields of the Middle East. Five sections alternate between home and away, exchanging familiar landscapes for foreign battlefields and finding displacement and disappointment in both. An award-winning foreign correspondent, Griswold writes terse poems that unfortunately too often bear the uncomfortable and worn trope of the observer. Other cultures are pressed into the singsong of iambic rhythms and hard rhymes: The prostitutes in Kabul tap their feet/ beneath their faded burqas in the heat./ For bread or fifteen cents, they'll take a man to bed—/ their husbands dead, their seven kids unfed. In the collection's strongest pieces, the speaker turns her unsparing eye on the rubble of her own relationships, as in October, when she softly admits, I mourn you sometimes/ in places you would have been. Though the speaker travels great distances in these poems, the imagination does not; while investigating the complex ruins of war and love, Griswold attempts to snap each poem shut with a summation or moral, often to diminutive effect. (May)
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“Eliza Griswold’s brief poems excel in that most difficult work of the writer—not to speak to excess and yet not to say a small thing. Her poems, which treat of both personal intimacy and of the anguish so present now in our trouble-laden world are, at the same time, concise, resonant, empathetic, angry, and luminous.”
“Some of the strengths of Eliza Griswold’s first book are immediately apparent. They include an assured authority of tone, language of repeatedly astonishing transparency, images that emerge out of each poem’s invisible source, vivid and revelatory even when they appear to overlap like double exposures. Her subjects are raw, wrenching, and she makes them ours. This is writing of true originality, that seems to have started out knowing where it was going.” —W.S. Merwin
“Eliza Griswold's Wideawake Field is a book of compelling authority by a young poet who already understands, and stands ready to renew, poetry's most ancient tasks—to bring the news, to sing the human in the midst of its destruction, to register truths, to open our eyes. The broken world is one world in her poems. She draws tenderness from brutality, an idyll from a panic, and lyric not from interlude, but everywhere.” —Susan Stewart
“Evidently this new poet has loved and lost (though of such loving, it is the losing which is disclosed), a good show for lyric verse, as the old poets have demonstrated; but equally evident is Ms Griswold’s engagement in the world’s woes, even her possession of them. Such double-dealing results in a distillation of political ressentiment which is a novelty in the annals of our poetry of passion. Who conceives Dickinson conferring an instant of her attention on what occurred at Gettysburg; indeed who expects the accents of Christina Rossetti to sort with the collective griefs of, say, Darfur? Yet hear Griswold:
I’m embarrassed to remember
the time before I grew
uncertain about you,
and that I had a right to say
where I had been
and what I saw there.
We must salute the achievement of this poetry not for novelty alone, but for its immediacy of feeling, its recognition of defeat, its stoic joy.” —Richard Howard