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Begin Again: Collected Poems Paperback – March 14, 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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The Underground Railroad
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"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For someone who describes herself as a "combative pacifist and cooperative anarchist," Grace Paley writes poetry like a rebel angel. Combining selections from her two previous volumes as well as new and unpublished poems, Begin Again is the work of a seasoned literary veteran but also that of a lifelong bur under the establishment's saddle. A teacher, activist, and National Book Award-winning master of the short story form, Paley fashions poems as terse as haiku but as direct and earthy as a note to a friend--which, in fact, several of these seem to be. Here are poems about milkweed pods, Saint John's wort, bees, and ants, as well as poems about El Salvador, Vietnam, and AIDS. Verses about the five-day week ("like a long bath in the / first bathtub of God") rub shoulders with those about responsibility:
It is the responsibility of the male poet to be a woman
It is the responsibility of the female poet to be a woman
It is the poet's responsibility to speak truth to power as the Quakers say
Who else could pen these lines and not perish under their weight? To say that Paley is a political writer is like saying that the hero of the Old Testament is an omnipotent God; without either half of the equation, there isn't much point. War, capitalism, sanitary napkins, old age and old dogs: no detail in the lives of men and women is too large or too small to warrant her compassionate eye. These are poems deeply invested in life and the world, rendered in a voice so immediate you feel you've called Grace up for a chat. --Chloe Byrne --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Paley (Enormous Changes at the Last Minute) has stood for decades among America's most cherished short-story writers. Her poems retain the winning openness, the whimsy and the political commitments her fiction flaunts. They also contain deep insights about narrative and voice: "A Poem about Storytelling" explains, "the first person is often the lover who/ says I never knew anyone like you/ The listener is the beloved She whispers/ Who? Me?" The poems can carry her readers through the poet's traumas, astonishments, and exclamations: when she says "Oh! the five exogamous boroughs of/ our beloved home New York," that adjective invites her readers to love it too. Poems address locales in New York City and Vermont; consider generational succession and old age; advocate an energetic acceptance of difference and diversity; and dwell on particular political struggles. (Some of the poems about Vietnam and El Salvador stick perhaps too closely to their occasions.) Her cadences and preoccupations can suggest a much slighter, and sunnier, Adrienne Rich. But in contrast to Rich, much of Paley's poetry seems unfinished, jotted-down rather than carefully made. Her lines give revelations without contexts, theses without examples, ends and beginnings without their middles: the poem "Life" reads, in its entirety: "Some people set themselves tasks/ other people say do anything only live/ still others say/ oh oh I will never forget you event of my first life." And too many lines become unadorned tracts: "It is the responsibility of the poet not to pay war taxes." Fans of the fiction will want these unguarded looks at the illimitably appealing Paley persona. And even those not already charmed by Paley's prose ought to enjoy her few best poems: an account of "twenty-two tranvestites/ in joyous parades" on Mother's Day; the superbly constructed, vertiginous "Leaflet"; the heartbreaking "On the Deck," about old age; a six-line apocalypse called "psalm." (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 177 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (March 14, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374527245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374527242
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,598,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The poetry in this book is a gift. I borrowed this book from the library, but it is now on my Christmas list.
I offer one of Paley's poem that is all too relevant today.
I Gave Away That Kid
I gave away that kid like he was an old button
Here old button get off of me
I don't need you anymore
go on get out of here
go into the army
sew yourself onto the colonel's shirt
or the captain's fly jackass
don't you have any sense
don't you read the papers
why are you leaving now?
That kid walked out of here like he was the cat's pajamas
what are you wearing pj's for you damn fool?
why are you crying you couldn't
get another job anywhere anyways
go march to the army's drummer
be a man like all your dead uncles
then think of something else to do
Lost him, sorry about that the President said
he was a good boy
never see one like him again
Why don't you repeat that your honor
why don't you sizzle up the meaning
of that sentence for your breakfast
why don't you stick him in a prayer
and count to ten before my wife gets you
That boy is a puddle in Beirut the paper says
scraped up for singing in church
too bad too bad is a terrible tune
it's no song at all how come you sing it?
I gave away that kid like he was an old button
Here old button get offa me
I don't need you anymore
go on get out of here
go into the army
sew yourself onto the colonel's shirt
or the captain's fly jackass
don't you have any sense
don't you read the papers
why are you leaving now?
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Format: Paperback
The totality of Grace Paley's life's work is to be lauded. So many hats and a deep commitment to essential values that are ennobling. The poetry, however, is rather ordinary, the surprises few, though the granular level of observation can be, from time to time, revelatory.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
excellent
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