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The Book of Men: Poems Hardcover – February 28, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Laux's fifth collection continues in her descriptive, storytelling vein: the at-hand, the matter-of-fact, the day-to-day are rendered in an earnest tone both sensuous and nostalgic. Something of a baby boomer's field guide, this book portrays the legacy of the 1960s from the perspective of one who has survived and must look back on what that decade did and didn't change. And so, the Vietnam War, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Cher, Frank O'Hara, and Superman all make appearances. Laux's treatment of this era isn't without sentimentality, but her true aim is more probing, more elegiac: Superman "sits on a tall building/ smoking pot, holding white plumes in,/ palliative for the cancerous green glow/ spreading its tentacles"; "It's 2010 and the doctors have given him another year in Metropolis." Laux's younger self has grown up, no longer that girl who knew "it was the summer of love/ and I wore nothing under my cotton vest,/ my Mexican skirt." Laux brings the book toward its close reconsidering women's bodies—specifically their breasts—and how they change: "your mother's are strangers to you now, your sister's/ were always bigger.../ your lover's breasts, deep under the ground,/ you weep beside the little mounds of earth/ lightly shoveled over them." (Feb.)
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Laux has somehow become the men, women and children of these portraits in an exchange of the power to live for the power to tell. --Andrew Tonkovich --bibliocracyradio.blogspot.com/2011/03/wednesday-march-23-poet-dorianne-laux.html
I think of (Laux) as the Ricky Lee Jones of poetry....sweet without being sentimental. Her poems are little songs of honest hope. --Dean Rader --therumpus.net/2011/05/the-hokum-of-her-clothes/
This is a bold raid by a female poet...Dorianne Laux dares to parse her life through the prism of men who've passed through it. --Dana Jennings, NYTimes --nytimes.com/2011/05/30/books/poems-by-dean-young-dorianne-laux-tom-sexton-review.html
"Dorianne Laux narrates the American dream and its collective unraveling with courage, compassion and exhilarating candour." -- The Poetry Trust, UK --thepoetrytrust.org/
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Top Customer Reviews
Laux doesn't write poems that are obscure, poems that intimidate readers. She communicates at the highest levels. The reader not only "gets" the poem, but feels it, experiences it.
I will often write a poem and "try it out" on a few friends who dislike poetry. I explain that if it doesn't make sense, I haven't done my job. Recently, I read Mother's Day to a few of these friends. Their responses ranged from: "Oh My God", to "I want this book."
I have called most of my poet friends to read the poem over the phone. It is perfect. In this poem we experience a moment we have had but couldn't put in words - a moment we know we will have at some time in our life. In so few words, we know Mother and daughter. We know their history, the way their minds work, the bond between them. We taste the mixture of sweet and sour, feel pain, joy, love and we are left reflecting on the beauty of a moment when worlds intertwine.
The entire collection is remarkable, and this is only one poem.
I came away from this collection feeling as if I know this poet now. More importantly, however, Laux (similar to Olds) it seems, is a master at the line-break. The way in which she crafts her lines made me feel as if Laux was very much in control throughout - even in poems like 'Bakersfield, 1969' and 'Staff Sgt. Metz,' where clearly there is an emotional element coming through.
Thank you Ms Laux for taking me on a wonderful, intense journey.
The first section of the book begins with sixteen poems, each about a different man, mythical or actual. Some poems also deal with the topic of men at large thematically. Laux succeeds at achieving razor sharp clarity with her powerful imagery, playful language, and surprising metaphors. In "Mick Jagger" she writes of the singer: "If you turn off the sound he's a ruminating bovine/a baby's face tasting his first sour orange or spitting spooned oatmeal out./Rugose cheeks and beef/jerky jowls." This sort of humor infuses the collection and keeps it engaging throughout. Despite "The Book of Men's" playfulness, each of its poems also holds a simple and striking truth. This is Laux at her best, juxtaposing humor and solemnity. At the end of "Late-Night TV," for instance, a poem recounting a narrator watching a late-night infomercial man, Laux writes: "Somewhere in the universe is a palace/ where each of us is imprinted with a map,/the one path seared into the circuits of our brains./It signals us to turn left at the green light,/right at the dead tree./We know nothing of how it all works,/how we end up in one bed or another,/speak one language instead of others,/what heat draws us to our life's work/or keeps us from a dream until it's nothing/but a blister we scratch in our sleep."
In the second section of the collection, Laux expands beyond poems only about men to write about subjects as diverse as Cher, the color gold, and the beauty of people's backs. A master observer, Laux adeptly captures the small details which bring these poems to life: "Cher/tall as a glass of iced tea,/her bony shoulders draped...rouged cheek bones and her/throaty panache/her voice of gravel and clover." "The Book of Men" celebrates the beauty of human imperfection, of both men and women.
Fans of Laux's work will not be disappointed. "The Book of Men" skips the "big things" and focuses on the small, over-looked, and in-between moments of life, setting up the human being as a tiny blip against a huge backdrop. The same intense imagery, non-judgmental voice, blend of comedy and seriousness, and stories about everyday life that are hallmarks of her previous collections are present here. However, "In the Book of Men," Laux achieves a level of precision with her language like never before. With its tight language and piercing clarity, this latest collection is Laux's crowning achievement. She states in the poem "Mine Own Phil Levine": "poetry was precision, raw precision/Truth and compassion: genius." If this is the case, then this is the most real poetry Laux has ever penned, as well as the most ingenious.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Initially filled with youthful memories of encounters with men, as you read The Book of Men, it...Read more