- Paperback: 108 pages
- Publisher: White Pine Press (February 11, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781935210511
- ISBN-13: 978-1935210511
- ASIN: 1935210513
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 16 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,273,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hourglass Museum Paperback – February 11, 2014
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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.
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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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.
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
— 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. The language beautifully expresses these emotions and allowed me to connect with them personally. I could see myself in these moments of darkness and in the ways a write approaches such moments, especially through pen. I think these feelings are approachable from a variety of perspectives, allowing many kinds readers to feel them.
<blockquote><em>"There's no dessert in the picnic basket,
so I swallow time. My mouth is full
of hands and numbers. I ask for seconds." </em>
— from the poem "Drowning Girl: A Waterlogged Ars Poetica"</blockquote>
And yet, there is a sense of humor throughout, too, a poking of fun at the supposed importance of depression, so that such darker subjects cannot drag down the reader and instead allow them to explore and transverse the state. It brings a lightness to the poems that makes them great to read.
<blockquote><em>"I escape disaster by writing a poem with a joke in it:
The past, present, and future walk into a bar — it was tense."</em>
— from the poem "Sketchbook with an Undercurrent of Grief"</blockquote>
All in all, this was a wonderful collection and, though I own it in digital format, I'm contemplating buying it again in print format as well, just so I can add the tactile sensation to my enjoyment of the book.
<blockquote><em>"Madness is a meaningful way to exist." </em>
— from the poem "Menacing Gods: An Abstract"</blockquote>
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.