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For (New California Poetry) Hardcover – March 2, 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
The interplay between involuntary acts and cognition ("Suddenly thinking somewhere in the breath--along// the breath, is an understood place") centers Snow's second collection. The governing influence of its three sections of long-lined lyrics is Jorie Graham, who is all over lines such as the above, as well as the dashes, parentheses and brackets that break up the text throughout. In fact, the book as a whole attempts the meditational metaphysics that Graham has made famous, finding abstract ideas swirling around "every slip left out to dry," or a recurrent "boundary [coastline]." The main emphasis is on thinking through the intertwinement of the internal and external as held together by the body and self of the female speaker. It's an approach that works best in "Bowl," where images of "Something there./ Something white there under the water" lead to a "tug" that encloses scientific laws, rock gardens, television and the poet ("I am That") within its textual parentheses, but which more often collapses under the weight of abstraction and stylistic tics. When the poet breaks through with an I that's just trying to make sense of things--" somehow I am fourteen and panicking"--the poems are refreshed. But repetitions tend to dull rather than emphasize the insights, making it difficult to identify which of them is being reinforced. Readers looking for philosophical verse that engages the postfeminist, public-private predicament would be better served by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge's Empathy or Four Year-Old Girl. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
Snow, who lives in San Francisco, won the Book Award from the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University in 1990 for Artist and Model, her first collection of poetry. She also received a NEA Fellowship. Here (in the first volume of the New California Poetry series) she sets herself the task of the ages in trying to describe what it means to stand within a small fragment of time, attempting to make sense of the whirlwind of impressions, past and present, that descend upon one in a moment of quiet. She layers her images, shifts the figure and ground, interposes scenes from memory with the reality at hand, and subtly merges or shifts the relationship between the observer and the observed. In some respects these are ``thought experiments,'' and, as in all laboratory situations, not all results are successful. Sometimes the thoughts obtrude. Her insistence upon aesthetic exactness is wearing at times, as when her favorite parenthetical expression, ``(somehow),'' is continually repeated. Yet she posits an interesting ekphrasis (describing a work of art in verse) of two photographs of a thematically-linked painting and sculpture. Her poems are often visually spare and striking, as in her description of a Henry Moore sculpture of ``a woman's body, reclining, curved: eloquent as bone, shell, stones worn beyond contradiction.'' Snow is most successful when her space is circumscribed, when she limits herself to defining a single moment, with all its attendant sensations, thoughts, and memories. She is least poetic and most didactic when performing her syntactic legerdemain. -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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"For" roams, looking for a place to attach the wordlessness that comes at life's difficult moments. In the title poem Snow confronts the death of her father, as thousands of poems do, but she does so with wonderful confusion and uncertainty: "To begin, even in the--even with the--disarray." The substitution of prepositions delicately expresses the difficulty of telling about a loved one's death. "In" suggests that the speaker is still living in the event. "With" brings it along as luggage. The speaker exists both in the remembered event and in the present moment. Later in the poem the father writes a note to remind himself of the day. "They [doctors] usually ask me this." The speaker and her sister respond to this with a mixture of shock and laughter. In watching this, the sisters are compared to a mask "turned outward toward you, for--something heartless the heart goes out to." This is a chillingly honest description of dying--and the watching of it. Linguistically the speaker and her sister are in the same scary and oddly comical position as the father facing and entering death.
"For" opens with a longing for a place where matters are reconciled. In "News Of" the speaker tries to reconcile "another massacre" with "the clear bright morning." Here, then, is another dangling preposition and a feeling of disconnection. There are too many things to attach "of" to and so many are not really known and felt. How do we attach our feelings and language to horrible events such as Columbine, especially when we are fine, and it is beautiful outside?
Many of the poems, such as "Mask Series," explore this distance between self and world with the image of a tether: "It ran away from me." Snow compares this experience of losing the tether to a childhood game of "naming a series of natural objects placed in a box" and to God: "God wanted to behold/God," but balances her ambitions with the humble and warm image of the speaker's husband feeling in the dark for the flannel nightdress over her thigh. Carol Snow's semiotic and theological musings are never allowed to wander too far from sensory experience. She feels in the dark for fragments of meaning--a stone found in a zen garden or a "...heart flung down like a stone." "For" is for someone and some thing the speaker cannot put a finger on. With a cool and steady gaze, Carol Snow's poems feel for a soft heart in hard matters.