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Hourglass Museum Paperback – February 11, 2014

4.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

The poems in Hourglass Museum may be triggered by visual art and artists, but they read as Kelli Russell Agodon's very personal struggle with making poetry and living with the consequences--artistic, social, emotional. It's an intelligently conceived and moving collection, and the greatest pleasure of all is the line-by-line revelation of the poems, which are always lively, witty (even when they are sad), surprising, musical, addictive. Reading these poems is a joy.
 
~ Kathleen Flenniken, Washington State Poet Laureate 

From the Author

The poems in Hourglass Museum explore living life with an undeniable yearning to create. 
I tried to create a reckoning throughout the book, a balancing of the scales between art and life. Many of the poems in this manuscript rely on art--famous and otherwise--to explore relationships and to help interpret life and the world around us. I am interested in how art influences us and how images and interactions with art can carry us from one place to another, such as seeing a painting of a fig tree then having it bring back a memory of one's childhood home. 
 
In this book, I tried to created a paper museum.  The book is divided into different exhibits from portraits to a sketchbook of nudes. I allowed art from artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, Joseph Cornell, Andy Warhol, and Beauford Delaney to influence my writing.  Sometimes I find myself feeling almost overwhelmed with the beauty created by others and this book reflects that as well as the vulnerability (and sometimes unbalance) we may feel while living as artists in the world.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 108 pages
  • Publisher: White Pine Press (February 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935210513
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935210511
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,782,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Justin Evans on February 10, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The poetry in Hourglass Museum is worth ten times what you will pay for it. There are so many wonderful metaphors in this book I hesitate to share them with you because each is so masterfully woven into the very fabric of the book I would be quoting pages at a time. You deserve to read the book in its entirety. Hourglass Museum is the first book of poems in quite a while that makes me want to tell all my friends about it, even if they already own a copy. Kelli Russell Agodon has proven yet again how devoted she is to the art of poetry and how integral it is to her life.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Agodon uses words to bring you into the poem and words to hide the barbs. Beautifully written, with the tension of love's tiny pains sliding beneath the surface of the poems, these poems won't bring you down, but make you ask for more.
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In Hourglass Museum, Agodon chronicles and articulates the struggle artists live--How does one live an authentically creative life and be a wife/mother/wage earner? (Husband/father can be substituted.) Not readily apparent in that question are all the bigger, harder questions embedded in it:

Is being creative a luxury? Does creativity matter? What if it doesn't amount to anything? Was it worth what was sacrificed for it? Is one selfish for taking time away from other things to create? (Other MORE IMPORTANT things is what is often said/implied/felt.)

Agodon addresses these questions and more in Hourglass Museum and does so in the most deft investigations of the ways in which artists give themselves to others, and more importantly, the ways they give themselves permission (or not) to lead productive, fulfilling creative lives. These investigations are explored in poems that are a tour of delight in perception and language.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
<blockquote><em>"If you think you are the mermaid, think again.
You are the ocean holding the mermaid afloat,
trying to change the world one dolphin at a time."</em>
— from the poem "Souvenir Boxes"</blockquote>
Agodon's poetry explores a variety of themes within <em>Hourglass Museum</em>. As the title suggests, art is an important source of inspiration here (as can also be seen in the long list of notes at the end of the book), with poems referencing great artists such as Frida Kahlo and Andy Warhol. The idea of preservation, via canvass, poem, or as a collection in a museum, of moments captured and held in stasis through artifice and creation are a constant in these poems.
<blockquote><em>"Dark matter angels mingle over oceans
and bubbling cities filled with unopened jars,
all we had were cupboards and cupboards
of challenges."</em>
— from the poem "A Moment Ago, Everything Was Beautiful"</blockquote>
The outward inspiration of art and museums, is drawn into the personal scope of Agodon's personal life, both her inner emotional realm and the outer realm of home and family and relationships. This connection between art and home works well, since as human being we often take memories and put them on the shelves of our minds, we collect pieces of anger and store them for later use, attach joy to simple objects, return to each of them again and again, revisit, and Agodon's poetry reflects this.
<blockquote><em>"I place solitude in a frame on my desk
and call it, The one I love."</em>
— from the poem "Line Forms Here"</blockquote>
She explores a variety of emotional states, including depression and loneliness.
Read more ›
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In Hourglass Museum, Kelli Russell Agodon has a trifecta! First as a book, second for the individual poems and finally for the many stand alone gems that dot the landscape of this work.

Agodon tackles many common poetry themes with uncommon grandeur, making this
book thoroughly fresh. Exploring the intersections of life and art, Hourglass Museum offers a smart look at the creative lifestyle. It’s a personal and honestly expressed journey that is real; complete with life’s rough edges, questions and longing. The text is replete with impressive metaphors.

Many of the poems are of ekphrastic nature which offers great artistic latitude and is certainly a factor in what makes this poetry so fresh and enjoyable.

One of my favorite poems is Self Portrait with Reader. Agodon writes:

We must live with our hearts
in our hands— like Mary.

We must hold the blood-
red heart and not be disappointed
when others look away.

This is what we do with art… This is what Agodon had done with these poems. I encourage you to not look away.
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There’s much to admire about Hourglass Museum, but here’s what I loved most: Kelli Russell Agodon is just charmingly and elegantly clever with words. Hers is not the look-at-me, jokey kind of cleverness, but the kind that emerges seemingly without effort to stun you with its grace and aptness. I read these lines over and over from the poem “Drowning Girl: A Waterlogged Ars Poetica” to savor their sound and substance.

There’s no dessert in the picnic basket/so I swallow time. My mouth full/of hands and numbers. I ask for seconds.

Agodon manages to achieve a playfulness while pulling you under to the poem’s depths. Throughout the book, she mixes melancholy with cheekiness, longing with mock (and, sometimes, real) rebellion.

The book opens with an epigraph by Anais Nin: Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. There are in these poems, many references to escape. There is mention of exits and entrances, doorways and windows and where they might lead: museums, an unlocked cage, a church, or in “Death of a Housewife, Oil on Linen” an entirely new existence: …what she wanted/was to tango with another or a key/to unlock the front door and waltz/herself into another life.

Agodon also considers how our veneration for our heroes can both inspire and shrink us. In “Frida Kahlo Tattoo,” she writes: I wear a temporary tattoo/of Frida Kahlo believing/I can change the world/and if not the world/then a lightbulb, the channel…

Many of the poems are inspired by paintings, and the reader can almost imagine the poems themselves framed and hanging in a museum. The book has four parts, each dealing with an aspect of work in an exhibition, rendering in words the quirky, keen depths of the poet’s vision. In her prologue poem, Agodon invites the reader to …look up and see the madness/organized in the stars.
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