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Lovers in the Used World (Poetry Series) Hardcover – January, 2001

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While singularly up-to-date in their topics gas stations, stars, urban centers, "deep-fried... catfish," "teenagers" who "xerox/ genitalia" the poems in Conoley's fifth volume come dangerously close to their apparent model: Jorie Graham's oeuvre. Beyond some high-low pastiche, Conoley's real subjects are those Graham's style, on constant display here, seems to involuntarily bring forth; the fragmentary phrases, double-spaced long lines and phrase-long self-questionings here result in abstract speculations ("the almost seen/ luminous circle breaking to parenthesis") that raise problems about beauty, "system" and chaos, embodiment and relation, God and God's absence from the phenomenal world. Alcibiades and Socrates each get a poem, or part of a poem, to themselves. A few relatively compact poems ("The Masters," "Flute Girl") are unqualified successes, drawing out Conoley's own uneasy sparkle and shine. The rest of the book owes far too much to Graham, whose mannerisms though suited to Conoley's big topics overwhelm what Conoley has to say. Graham's method of interweaving everyday actions with empty philosophical queries ("What if there is not enough nothing?" writes Conoley), her attractively scattered sentence fragments, her stentorian openings ("That the transactions would end"), her domesticated jump-cuts and even distinctive props from Graham's most famous poems (birds on a phone line, for example) pervade so many of Conoley's new poems that this book is best read as respectful homage. (May) Forecast: Conoley's previous books, including Beckon (1996) and Some Gangster Pain (1987), both from Carnegie-Mellon, are well-known and well-respected on the po-biz circuit, as is the magazine of which Conoley is founder and editor, Volt. Poet-in-residence and associate professor at Sonoma State University, Conoley should reach the school-based readership that has been waiting for this title.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

GILLIAN CONOLEY’s collections of poetry include Beckon; Tall Stranger, nominated for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award; Some Gangster Pain; and Woman Speaking Inside Film Noir. Winner of a Pushcart Prize and included in Best American Poetry, she is Poet-in-Residence and Associate Professor at Sonoma State University, where she is founder and editor of Volt. Born and raised in Taylor, Texas, she makes her home in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, the novelist Domenic Stansberry, and their young daughter.

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Product Details

  • Series: Carnegie Mellon Poetry Series
  • Hardcover: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Carnegie Mellon (January 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887483194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887483196
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,063,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Paula Koneazny on April 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Gillian Conoley's poems ignite like tinder on the page. Language here produces sparks, then heat, as it rubs up against spare syntax and lush images. White space (and silence), like oxygen, increase combustion. Indeed Conoley concerns herself as much with "a space preceding the image and a space following" as she does with the fragments that she feeds to the fire. She effectively uses repetition of structure (for example, four poems entitled The World that frame the collection), word and phrase to further expand space, and experience, in her poems. Repetition evokes "many people doing the same thing period," their "used" gestures and utterances reiterated through time and space to create what might be "eternity." Lovers In The Used World is a book of poems well worth a close read.
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Format: Hardcover
Gillian Conoley, Lovers in the Used World (Carnegie Mellon, 2001)

Gillian Conoley does not strike me as a happy camper. Her poems snap off the page at you, their language seemingly ready to beat you if you so much as look at it the wrong way. This could, of course, be a reaction to my recently reading so much of the pristine, academic type stuff that's seemingly in more vogue than usual these days (comparisons of Conoley to Jorie Graham, as have been posited by some others, strike me as especially odd, as Graham typifies that particular school), but, well, these poems snap.

Conoley doesn't really sound like a language poet much (though she does fall into that rut a time or two in this collection), but she's certainly not above borrowing their syntax to suit her needs; odd spacings and such abound here. It's possible that it all has a reason, but as someone who's never been able to figure out the complex linguistic trickery that language poets are seemingly offering with their ways of sticking stuff on the page, I can personally attest that this stuff would read just as good if Conoley had put it on the page in nothing but heroic couplets; it's the words, and how they sound when you put them together, that's important, and these words sound very good when put together.

Worthwhile. Check it out. *** ½
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