From Kirkus Reviews
Chatty and free-flowing, Vollmers best poems are generous celebrations of Pittsburgh and her ethnic family; the winner of Wisconsins Brittingham Prize for her first book, Level Green (1991), Vollmer teaches college writing and incorporates her experiences in a number of overly loose poems, in which she quotes her students, who also complain about her poetic models, including James Wright, the subject of a long homage for his portraits of hobos. Given to political rants, she recalls teaching in a barbaric high school during the Reagan years, when she had eaten Reagan/like a dot/of blotter acid, whatever that means. Vollmer frankly details her sexual history as well, remembering a long-ago abortion (Passing the Clinic in a Small Town) and then, in What She Didnt Tell Him, recalling the joyful relief afterward. A walker in the city, the poet sees the poor and the workers, but shes also capable of more subtle observation: We Built This City inventories its multitudes; Night Walks recommends a nocturnal journey (with mythic echoes) as an antidote to insomnia; and her one fully realized poem, The Approach, matches its claustrophobic couplets to her experience stuck in a traffic jam underground, with the promise of light ahead. With the tribal/ethnic force of Forche or Broumas, Vollmer sings herself and her city. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
"Judith Vollmer evokes the City in all its grit and fire and seaminess, its chains and enchantments, its dreams and rude awakenings. No one has written more movingly, more affectingly, about Pittsburgh; or, for that matter, about America, about the world. Whitmanesque in their plentitude, their openeyed embraces, these poems are the grand gesture , the soaring meditation, the expansive observation, the real thing." --Ronald Wallace
"Someone observed that what was remarkable about Gertrud Stein was not that she was ahead of her time, but that she managed to be so much of her time. The same could be said of Judith Vollmer's remarkable new book, The Door Open to the Fire
. The subject -- the obession -- of this book is place; the particular focus of both its rage and its love is the American city. What is amazing is the book's exemplary originality. The Door Open to the Fire
is a book about the city as an idea, about the city as a body. The writing is stern and gorgeous, wry and mournful" --Lynn Emanuel
"Vollmer's embrace is so wide, her enthusiasm for participation in the streaming variations of life so evident, that these poems sweep us up in their energies, their flesh-and-blood longings, their deeply human sense of helplessness and hope. This is a citizen's testament, as passionate and complicated as a great city demands." --Mark Doty