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Interior with Sudden Joy: Poems Paperback – June 15, 2000

3.9 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Brenda Shaughnessy's art is urgent and exuberant, deeply witty and just as disturbing. In her love poems the threat of failure goes both ways, and amnesia is never in the offing. The dizzying verses in Interior with Sudden Joy veer between adoration and the inevitable, since "espionage of flesh roots in the dirt / of the heart." One is titled "You're Not Home, It's Probably Better," which is either hilarious or heartbreaking, depending on your mood. Another begins, "Let this one clear square of thought be just / like a room you could come in to." Beautiful, no?

In Shaughnessy's visceral wonderland, obsession and poison go hand in hand, mirrors make people vanish, and nuns are definitely not safe in their alabaster chambers. She's ever intent on rescuing (or wresting) us from our easy beliefs. "The Question and Its Mark" is her stunning take on the myth of Leda and the Swan, its final couplet reading: "Leda possessed a pair of knees that also bent / in prayer. I ask of you only what she asked for there." Yes, this poet knows her tropes, and has a sure synesthetic touch. Her pairs of women are "hot with mixed / light drunk with insult," and her private language--in which words such as blue, strumpet, and silver reverberate--soon becomes a kind of lingua franca between her and the reader. In her debut, Shaughnessy's debt to the surrealists, particularly to Dorothea Tanning, is visible and audible on each page. She's also a distant and distancing poetic relative of Sylvia Plath, wielding a similar jaunty threat. "Epithalament," her twist of an epithalamium, invokes a woman lost--and begins: "Other weddings are so shrewd on the sofa, short / and baffled, basset-legged." What better combination could there be of tradition, the individual talent, and the razor-sharp imagination? --Kerry Fried --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Another remarkable debut, Shaughnessy's collection is summed up neatly by its title. She's focused, certainly, writing packed, demanding "interior" verse that she nevertheless hospitably invites you to enter: "Let this one clear square of thought be just/ like a room you could come in to." But throughout, the poems are sunlit with her boundless energy, with her passion, determination, and, yes, joy, which simply radiates off the page.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (June 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374526982
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374526986
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,230,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I was wowed by the first Shaughnessy poems I read -- jazzy, surprising, sexy. But there's not a lot more in a whole book of Shaughnessy poems than there are in a few Shaughnessy poems. Still, she has the tools to expand her range, so this is definitely a poet to watch.
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Format: Paperback
I disagree with the negative reviews here, blasting Shaughnessy for using big words. She is a poet -- poets are all about exploring language of all kinds and Shaughnessey does so in combinations that are remarkable, surprising, and thought-provoking. I've never read anyone like her. I love her work. And it IS work. For both the reader and writer. And I find it most rewarding.

Shaughnessey's may be seen by some as academic poetry, but I read in her words the plain pain of the inability of language, words, spaces, to convey the feeling state -- but she comes awfully close. This is why I think her language is so obtuse to some -- they are not reading the difficulty between words as a difficulty of linguistic significance.

And her poetry seems often terrifying, or terrified. Other poems seem beautiful. She takes amazing risks in putting words and phrases together that seem far apart. In bringing them together, perhaps some readers do not want to risk facing the bridge between words and what will be revealed to them by crossing that bridge. Shaughnessey is not a poet whose poems can be read once and done away with. Nor should they be. They linger for me, unforgettable. This is a book I constantly come back to in wonder. How does she come up with these personifications and metaphors? They are fresh, so fresh I cannot place them.

My favorite poem, "Jouissance," begins,

"Your phantoms hang neatly from skyhooks,
ready to be veils, ready to disembody you.

You have shelled yourself of this curved room
and the smell is of burnt door,

slackbelly hot. It is an albattoir,
lacking it's usual firmness.

[...]

You are all rain-collected, in a butterfly sac
opaque and draining.
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By A Customer on September 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
After reading some positive reviews I had high hopes for this book, but was disappointed. While Shaughnessy has an interesting way with language, I could not find a way into these poems, which are too hermetic and self-conscious and ultimately just plain puzzling.
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Format: Paperback
Rather than a "terminal adolescence", Shaugnessy presents us with a lexicon that is personal to the point of transcendence. She is both baroque and minimalist--at times ornate, at other times exacting to the point of abstraction. At times she creates a word to alter a familiar atmosphere, and at other times beckons the reader to rediscover words in their most precise and original definitions. Her poems are as deep and as deliberate as the great poets that have influenced her work--her plays on language and decisive structures are vessels for meaning that is not only totally expressed but entirely her own. It is both to her credit and our misfortune that she is the only female poet currently represented by FSG. As a student and an avid reader, to my mind she is one of the greatest American poets working today.
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Format: Paperback
Shaughnessy has taken for her collection a title typical of paintings but given it a twist or two as interior is cleverly ambiguous--it could be the interior of a room or our own psychological interiors (or someone else's), while with joy is a bit of verbal sleight of hand; it's not something that can be seen with the eye, but the language treats it as though it were as visible as an apple, a flower, or a wine glass--all common in still lifes. Shaughnessy's use of with joy is a way of working, in a manner of speaking, to the top of the medium. Non-writers are fond of pointing out that a picture is worth a thousand words, but an "interior with sudden joy" can't be photographed; it has to be imagined, felt, intuited. In other words Shaughnessy has done with words what could not have been done in paint or film--really in any other medium.

The collection is playful, light-hearted, and places special emphasis on sound--alliteration, assonance, rhyme, and repeated syllables. The poem "Swell," for example, on page 17, opens with the words "Svelte with eventual sex ...", a phrase that neatly aligns several instances of the short E sound and leavens the whole with the consonant V. Towards the end of the poem we read "We toss freely with fever this mirror/desilvered." Here it is mostly the long E that we hear, once again given V as accompaniment, but this time R makes its mark as well, particularly in fever, mirror, and desilvered. Returning to the top of the poem, we have "The shine and shifting slate of the sky ... I am more than blue/if you are the violent imprint."

In "Dear Gonglya" the experimentation in sound is somewhat more complex. "What we feel in the solar plexus wrecks us./Halfway squatting on a crate where feeling happened. Caresses.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of those books I make sure and take with me when I move. I won't bother trying to sound smart. I don't think I could do the book justice anyway by describing it, but I feel sorry for the people who didn't like it, and I'm glad I'm not them.
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