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Next Life (Wesleyan Poetry Series) Hardcover – February 19, 2007

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Once associated with the controversial, difficult 1970s and '80s group called Language Poets, Armantrout has more recently emerged into sustained critical acclaim: this ninth book (her second since the 2003 new and selected Veil) should see a breakthrough into wider attention. Armantrout's topics have not changed: emotional and philosophical skepticism; mysterious and haunting dreams—"the way sleep scrambles/ life's detritus"; the meanings and betrayals of words; and the frustrations and difficulties of communication in an all-too-consumerist culture. Nor have her instantly recognizable techniques altered much: short-lined, witty, taciturn stanzas ask why "Everything sparkles and/ then doesn't," or explore—in a poem that also describes the film Toy Story—the "gap/ ...where the soul/ was thought to live." Focused on small units—syllables, glimpses, ideas—the poems remind us how hard it is to even try to understand things for ourselves, how we can fight to resist the temptation to see society as it wants to be seen. Always smart, given to a sardonic humor, and surprisingly down-to-earth, Armantrout may confound readers who seek long, detailed stories or who want poems that give them clear hopes. Now that American popular culture accommodates so much disjunction, self-reference and irony, this could be the year when more readers discover Armantrout, too. (Feb.)
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Review

"Once associated with the controversial, difficult 1970s and '80s group called Language Poets, Armantrout has more recently emerged into sustained critical acclaim: this ninth book should see a breakthrough into wider attention... Now that American popular culture accommodates so much disjunction, self-reference and irony, this could be the year when more readers discover Armantrout, too."--Publishers Weekly, starred review
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Product Details

  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
  • Hardcover: 88 pages
  • Publisher: Wesleyan; First edition. edition (February 19, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0819568201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0819568205
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #981,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on April 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In the poems of NEXT LIFE, the natural world is taking a beating, not only from the rival attractions of the cinema and TV, but from the haste with which we have catapulted earth's slide into eco-catastrophe. From the very first poem, "Tease," to the last, we see the natural order made to feel second-rate, flowers turn into wallflowers. In "Tease," bare trees must be supplemented by their imagined resemblance to human skeletons to earn a place in the "provisional parts" of the world, while the poem works up a keen interest in a serial killer rapist movie--the eternal pair of cop versus serial killer. By the second poem, "Line," the speaker can no longer recall the origins of the term "rooting around."

Armantrout asserts that "Narrative prepares me/ to see/ whatever I see next," for one is always anticipating oneself, like the fellow Nicolas Cage plays in the new film NEXT--he can see everything two minutes into the future, thus it's hard to surprise him. In his case precognition itself foregrounds narrative's numinousness, to "produce a continuous present," as the poet reminds us in "As (2)." Three birds show up to stage a "framing gesture,/ / an inclusive sweep."

I have admired her writing for nearly 25 years, and last week I went to see her read from some of the poems in NEXT LIFE as she spoke on a bookstore panel here in San Francisco on "The Future of Poetry." It was the perfect topic for the theorist of NEXT LIFE, in which poetry's next two minutes seem always only as far away as the reach of one's hand. And she has a beautiful speaking voice too, her vowels pleasantly striated. If only I could have that voice of the operator eliminated from my phone system and have Rae Armantrout tell me that when I hear the tone, the time will be 10:49 a.m.
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Format: Hardcover
Rae Armantrout is a poet of intensely private language whose seeming fragments of sentences, scenes and interior recollections still read vividly, provocatively.A member of the Language group of poets whose other members include Ron Silliman, Bob Perleman and Lynn Hejinian among other notables, she has distinguished herself from the frequently discursive style that interrogates the boundries between the nominal power of language and the contradictions that result when conventional meaning rubs against insoluable fact, Armantrout's poetry is brief, terser, more taciturn and pared to the essential terms and the sensations they conflate. More autobiographical, perhaps, more concerned with raising a sense of genuine autonomy from the words one employs to define direction and purpose, Armantrout's poetry is an on going inquiry about what lies beyond our expectations once they've been given the lie. As in this fine collection's title,what is the "Next Life"? What she leaves out is fully formed by its absence.

We wake up to an empty room
addressing itself in scare quotes.

"Happen" and "now"
have been smuggled out,

to arrive safely in the past tense.

We come home to a cat
made entirely of fish.
--"Reversible"

Where a good many poets lavish their subjects with an overflow of language that twists and turns and deliberately problematizes syntax to achieve effects that are more stunts than perception or even an interrogation of an elusive notion, Armantrout's poetry is strong, stoic, lean to the degree that what remains are the resonances of a personality witnessing the truth when internal idealism and material fact don't compliment each other.
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Format: Hardcover
Take a look at this review of Armantrout?

this seems like so much bool sh-t: ? am i wrong? read this crap- non referentiality- seems right wing- ayn rynd?

critics are to art as are pidgeons to statues- i finbd armantout's poetry- like ashbery's- counter productive?

"Armantrout was a member of the original West Coast Language group. Although Language poetry can be seen as advocating a poetics of nonreferentiality, Armantrout's work, focusing as it often does on the local and the domestic, resists such definitions.[4] However, unlike most of the group, her work is firmly grounded in experience of the local and domestic worlds and she is widely regarded as the most lyrical of the Language Poets.[5]

Critic Stephen Burt at the Boston Review commented: "William Carlos Williams and Emily Dickinson together taught Armantrout how to dismantle and reassemble the forms of stanzaic lyric-- how to turn it inside out and backwards, how to embody large questions and apprehensions in the conjunctions of individual words, how to generate productive clashes from arrangements of small groups of phrases."
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