- Paperback: 96 pages
- Publisher: Copper Canyon Press (April 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1556592760
- ISBN-13: 978-1556592768
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #396,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Human Dark with Sugar Paperback – April 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The poems in Shaughnessy's acclaimed debut, Interior with Sudden Joy (1999), earned her comparisons to Sylvia Plath for their sexual frankness, tight-to-bursting compression and musical invention. Her second collection, winner of the Academy of American Poets' James Laughlin Award, brings a greater emotional bandwidth and stylistic suppleness to the task of unmasking the hoax of boundlessness in life and in love, making and making to replace the dreaming at last. The book's three sections contain nine, 11 and 10 poems, respectively, and that off-kilter triangulation—from the terse, not-quite-tongue-in-cheek self-dismissal of the first heading, Anodyne, to the suggestion of galactic exploration and recording in the last, Astrolabe—proves the right three-cornered lens for looking into the darkest corners of human relationships, including their embodiment: honeyed, self-twinned, fearless,/ a wineskin emptying/ into a singing stranger. Most are in the second person, who is sometimes the speaker and sometime not; most often, the addressee is a love or lover, who changes, and who is exhorted, berated, courted, rejected, fucked, accepted, lectured, soothed, teased and, always, loved: I am yours. I am still I. In its worried acceptance of contradiction, its absolute refusal of sentimentality and its acute awareness of time's scarce infinity, this is a brilliant, beautiful and essential continuation of the metaphysical verse tradition. (June)
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Top Customer Reviews
She has some startling lines right from the start, in “I’m over the moon”. “A kind of ancient date-rape drug. So I’ll howl at you, moon, “ As a geographer “I could sleep for days without a map.” Woke me up! There are a lot of poems focused on herself. But in ”This Loved Body”, she has 20 paragraphs written in praise of a male lover’s body .. .. “The thigh in long and it never relaxes, like an ogre’s magic flute”, I also like the sequence in Embarrassment “Things are less embarrassing at the cellular level. Remember?”
The first section of the book is Anodyne, also known as a pain-killer. This section of the book is not euphoric by any means. It is almost as if she is attempting to kill the pain with the sharpness of her words. For instance in "I'm Over the Moon:"
"How long do I try to get water from a stone?/It's like having a bad boyfriend in a good band.// Better off alone. I'm going to write hard/and fast into you, moon, face-f**king.//"
The second section of the book is Ambrosia, from the Greek mean of food or drink of the gods that confers immortality on the consumer. Is the narrator of Shaughnessy's poems interested in immortality? One of my favorite poems from this section is "Three Sorries," particularly the "1. I'm Sorry" section of the poem:
"Soon 1. born 1970
2. Cried: all along
3. Loved: you really so very much and no others
blurred into: 1. begging off for the dog-years behavior
2. extra heart hidden in sock drawer
3. undetected slept with others"
It seems as though she really is not sorry for her actions or the events leading up to the incident. It's amazing how many of these poems appear apologetic and wistful on the surface, but then turn to sarcasm and bleakness.
The third section is Astrolabe or astronomical instrument to surveying, locating, and predicting the positions of the sun, moon, and stars. I think the best illustration of this concept is Shaughnessy's "A Poet's Poem."
"I will get the word freshened out of this poem.// I put it in the first line, then moved it to the second./ and now it won't come out.// It's stuck. I'm so frustrated,/ so I went out to my little porch all covered in snow// and watched the icicles drip, as I smoked/a cigarette.//" The poem ends quizzically: "I can't stand myself."
"No Such Thing as One Bee" is another poem that illustrates this need to pinpoint a location. Shaughnessy uses a narrator that is unsure of where they are in life and how they fit into the greater scheme. Where it is a busy worker bee or a bee that goes out to collect pollen. I guess you could almost equate it to the Bee movie with Jerry Seinfeld.
Overall, this is one of the better poetry books I have read in some time. I love the sarcastic and bleak language used by Shaughnessy in her poems. It's the darkest side of humanity she examines, and she tries not to sugarcoat it, but sometimes, she just can't help herself.