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Memoir: Poems Paperback – November, 1988

2.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Honor Moore's poems speak of a strong faith in hard work and in the land of working alone, Her poems mark out bith the experiences she describes and, as in, "letter in Late July," the experience of making a book of poems (even the experience of being photographed for the book's jacket):

a key reconciles/
green words on a black screen. But nothing merges/
painlessly enough with memory. I/
could cook a lambchop or murder mosquitoes.

Though she has been widely published and anthologized (I can't get enough of "My MOther's Moustache), Memoir is Moore's long-awaited first collection. Waiting itself becomes a force in the book, transforming incidents into self-knowledge, and that knowledge into tradition. Take "Dream." written, the inscription tells us, after a lecture delivered on Emily Dickinson by Adrienne Rich (to whom Moore owes a great deal).

I move closer, see your face/
focus, dissolve to your/
mother's face: her face, your face,/
hers, yours, hers, until you merge,/
say to me, I will not go away.

Most of the poems in Memoir are in traditional forms--sapphics, sestinas, and a hendecasyllabic arrangement that looks like a recurring hourglass. And since forms, like contracts, best frame certain styles of discourse--hendecasyllabics hold the long narratives, sapphics lend a unifying music to shorter ones--the service Moore performs by concentrating so much on the stubborn sestina is that she's coaxed pleasure from this recalcitrant form....

Moore has a special place in the community of poets and writers not only for her craftsmanship, but also for the scope of her attentions--both public and private domains. Her vision of family and friends render their microcosmic embodiments of a larger world. On public issues, as in the two poems that frame the book like a pair of broad shoulder--a long poem, "Spuyten Duyvil," about nuclear holocaust, and an elegy to a friend dead of AIDS--Moore is intensely personal.

"Sober you can/
do anything," you told Joan. Jimmy said/
your last days the virus at your brain had you/
>in summer at the door on Fire Island/
offering refreshments as guests arrived,/
beautiful men, one after another.

Moore has also been willing to write of intimate relationships with both men and women, making her one of a very few poets whose work flows transexually, so to speak. She advocates love in the context of public courage, as in "Spuyten Duyvil":

I am not afraid to begin to love or/
to keep loving. Even in this fire,/
it is not fear I feel but heartbreak.

Village Voice, VLS, Robyn Selman -- Publisher Comments

From the Back Cover

Oh, thank God; A faithful American poet living among us: A poet who can boast, "I am not afraid to begin to love or to keep loving." Moore's poetry delivers stunning evidence of a relentlessly tender, a scrupulously moral, and an intelligibly sensual intersection with the beloved possibility of The Other One who waits upon our faith. These poems constitute a deep and gorgeous testimony to such a willing, lyrical trust. June Jordan

Remarkable, in Honor Moore's Memoir, how the power of loyalty--to parents, to siblings, to her own body--generates that other power, the power of longing, of desire, and of bestowal. No poet makes clearer the organizing capacity of want, round which, like iron filings in a field, are disposed the sensual patterns, colors, smells, tastes. Recurrence, then, is her Muse, shadowed--as Proust says--by girls in bloom; acknowledged, cherished as her own. Richard Howard

As if excavating her life, Honor Moore has uncovered with care the artifacts of the heart, and with deep intelligence explored the fissures in common speech and the shiftings of consciousness beneath them. At memory's insistence she has written this book, which opens with one of the most important poetic meditations on nuclear war to have been published during the last decade and concludes with an intimate, almost epistolary poem about a friend who died of AIDS. We are thus in the presence of a poet who can be praised not only for the eloquence and musicality of her voice, but also for the courage of her moral engagement. It is not only beautiful work, it is brave. Carolyn Forche


The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 79 pages
  • Publisher: Chicory Blue Pr (November 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0961911115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0961911119
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,141,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Alejandra Vernon HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
...to respond to a previous reviewer, but I can't let this mean spirited one stand as the only review to this book !
It may not be a great book, but it certainly is a good one...with the ability to engage the reader and tell a story in a way that can be very moving at times.
To fault someone for the color of their skin (WASP is as stupid a stereotype as any other), and the money in their pocket, is unconscionable and ignorant...and to be so critical and remain anonymous cowardly.
Add to that an F for spelling.
The grandmother mentioned is Margarett Sargent (not the birth control pioneer named), and the biography is the much acclaimed "The White Blackbird".
Ms. Moore has the ability to write in a way that I get a visual "picture" of her words...my favorite is:
"Anyone who calls a broken heart
a metaphor hasn't seen the crack".
I've had this book for many years, and it's been with me through my many moves, which says a lot for it, as so many volumes get weeded out as the boxes get packed. It's an old friend, one that speaks to me of tenderness, vulnerability, and emotional survival.
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By A Customer on August 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
Honor Moore's biography of her ancester Margarett Sanger, a forgotten painter, is more interesting than this book of Memoir: Poems which lacks exciting language and shows no real imagination or originiality. Moore's position as a well to do WASP on the art scene and her patronage of arts has earned her a place in poetry which is not deserved by her modicum of talent. She should stick with patronage of the arts and not attempt to invade the artist's domain. For one example, her poem on nuclear holocaust, lacks all sincereity as it shows no knowledge of the reality of nuclear war, and no understanding of the science of what it would mean. It falls flat. Her understanding of AIDS is more compelling, as this subject seems to be something she knows a bit about. Moore is a poor poet and a better prose writer. Her tone is false and language lacks depth and sincerity. She should stick with her modicum of talent for prose and writing about her famous ancesters, and stay out of the poetry world where her work always falls flat and sounds dull in tone. Her use of forms is forced and her musical ear lacking. There are better poets to spend time with who deal with subjects like these. Memoir-Poems was not worth the price. Read Maxine Kumin, Adrianne Riche, Denise Levertov, Grace Paley, Daniela Gioseffi, Sharon Olds, June Jordan for some really poetic writing on many of these attempted subjects. Moore is okay, but nothing exciting or original glows from these pages.
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