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Elegy: Poems Hardcover – October 16, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
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“This is our beautiful glimpse of forever. Mary Jo Bang's Elegy is a harrowing, necessary work.” ―C. D. Wright
“These poems (elegies) are written under the sign of Necessity. They exist because they have to exist. This means they are still burning from the forge, carry pain that is radiant, and cut a guiding path for the reader. Because she is already, before the hour of necessity, a serious and accomplished poet, all that she knows comes to her aid and has the kindness to make these poems great.” ―Fanny Howe, citation for the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award
Top Customer Reviews
And I'm glad it did cause it's a wonderful collection of poems which revolve around the theme of Ms Bang's son's death. Indirectly yet poignantly. At times gently, others uncomfortably.
There is no criticism here, just allow four stanzas from four of the sixty poems to tell you about itself.
He'd already slid. Into the state of wishing
To be all he had been which was now but a blur
Haze on the way to becoming a star.
Dreamland kept getting larger. It expanded
To embrace both time and timelessness
One minute left on the steps and told to be still
Another minute sent to a misaligned elsewhere.
It begins to sink in. Dead
Is dead, not just not
Here, the knife never dulls,
Does it, dearie
On the blade side.
ROLE OF ELEGY
The role of elegy is
To put a death mask on tragedy
A drape on the mirror.
....to rebreathe life
Into what the gone one once was
Before he grew to enormity.
Book-length collections that revolve around a single theme tend to work less well than those that range all over the map. There are any number of reasons for this, but the main one is that most poets just don't produce enough material over a protracted period of time about the same thing to make it work. This is why, when a book does get it right, it's such a brilliant reminder of how good such things can be (the obvious example, to my mind, is Donald Hall's Without, which traverses much the same ground Elegy does). When a book fails to do so, on the other hand, that doesn't mean in any way that it's as bad as the successes are good; much of the time it just means that the quality of the poems varies a bit more than one would like to see in a single-author poetry collection. Elegy is one of those books, with poems ranging from the blindingly brilliant to the quotidian. There's nothing here that's bad, some pieces just suffer in relation to others.
"A caboose climbing an emerald hill.
Daily we tend the garden.
Daily we wave
Our lashes like little flags
In a cordial wind. I? Who isn't
Ever I in a circular now."
("We Are Only Human")
Compare and contrast to:
"How could I have failed you like this?
The narrator asks
The object. The object is a box
Of ashes. How could I not have saved you,
A boy made of bone and blood."
("Landscape with the Fall of Icarus")
It all works, some just works better than the rest. Give it a look if you see it at the store. ***
son through the use of drugs. It is very personal and important
reading for those of us who have lost children. Mary Jo Bang was very
brave for writing this book and I thank her for that. Leona Ciptak
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Mary Jo Bang has done the impossible here. She has written about the deepest form of grief (the loss of a child) in this collection of poems and she has transformed it into... Read morePublished on April 13, 2014 by ZMan
Love Mary Jo Bang. Love these deeply moving poems. The exploration into the loss of her son is extraordinary. Highly recommended.Published on March 3, 2013 by Alexis R.
A moving series of poems that is so very personal to the author yet so universal to every reader that has suffered the loss of a loved one.Published on October 11, 2009 by James Krause
I didn't enjoy this book, and I was excited to read it. It had gotten a great review, but I cannot agree with that reviewer. Maybe I enjoy more traditional poetry. Read morePublished on October 5, 2008 by Busybeard