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Rehearsing Absence: Poems (Richard Wilbur Award, 4) Hardcover – December 1, 2001

3.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Rhina P. Espaillat, born in the Domincan Republic, once taught high school English in New York City. She now lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where she directs the Powow River Poets. She is the author of two previous collections of poetry: Lapsing to Grace (1992) and Where Horizons Go (1998), which received the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. A past winner of the Howard Nemerov Award and the Sparrow Sonnet Award, her work has been published in many literary journals including Poetry, American Scholar, The Formalist, and Orbis.
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Product Details

  • Series: Richard Wilbur Award, 4
  • Hardcover: 77 pages
  • Publisher: Univ of Evansville Pr; 1 edition (December 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0930982541
  • ISBN-13: 978-0930982546
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,448,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Miles D. Moore on February 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Rhina P. Espaillat, one of America's foremost living Formalist poets, eschews overt fireworks in her poetry. Like Vermeer--of whose paintings she has written most perceptively--Espaillat is a specialist in illuminating the quiet, everyday corners of our lives. She knows that the most quotidian things--a sign for a highway offramp, for example--can be symbolic of our deepest emotions, as in "Minefields":
Homebound past Wallingford you'll say, again,
"This is where Lenny lived; he died--let's see--
in forty-five, in Belgium; that was when
his jeep blew up. He was nineteen, like me."
Everywhere Espaillat sheds light on placid scenes and the complex life that looms just behind them. "Retriever," a winsome piece of anthropomorphism, depicts a dog philosophizing about the significance of his life. The masterful sonnet "Nightline" succinctly presents the horror we feel at the news of yet another high-school massacre. "Paper," another fine sonnet, shows the poet discarding once-meaningful old documents "that will not mean a thing to anyone." Espaillat has reached that stage in life when the process of attrition becomes inexorable; against that, she upholds her bedrock belief in beauty, sanity, and civilization. Like a lamp in the window, her poetry is a welcome beacon of hope to all of us 21st-century readers.
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Format: Hardcover
Rhina Espaillat is a wonderful formal poet. I highly recommend her last book, 'Where Horizons Go.' This latest collection is easily as good. Once again she shows her mastery of meter and form (and this one is also loaded with sonnets) and she has a graceful use of language. The subject material of this collection seems to be a bit more serious.
The best I can do for this book is to briefly look at my three favorite poems. "Retriever" is a dramatic monologue where the narrator is a dog. It's a touching poem about the love and devotion of dogs towards their people. The essence is in why dogs do this: "...Why/ do I serve him? Who else would recover/treasures he�s always losing? " It's a touching and humorous poem. "Unto Each Thing" takes the topic of death, and life. Where a neighbors garden blooms more beautiful the spring their child died. We like to think that life and beauty in the face of death can help. But "too much, smell wearied, skin recoiled/from silk and velvet leaves to touch", and Rhina shows us it does not. The final stanza really sticks with you:
and mind ached with the gardener�s back
bent to the clacking of old shears
over big, heavy-breasted blossoms
gathering earthward like slow tears.
"Three Versions" is a poem where the narrator dreams her own death. It contains lines such as: "I settled in the mould, but begged them to/take word of me to those my death would wrong" and "I woke to the third day�s inhuman chill,/rank with the scent of mould. I smell it still."
This collection spends a lot of time delving into death and other more serious concerns not seen as much in her earlier collections.
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Format: Hardcover
Well into her 70s, Rhina Espaillat-Moskowitz is a prodigy in that she continues to write the same sentimental poem over and over again, with the same thumping pentameters and forced rhymes. Her poems are often stories borrowed from the imagined pasts of her Morano ancestors, who fled persecution in Spain for the Dominican Republic, and then persecution in the Dominican Republic for the USA. Always, always, they are noble souls. Yes, always.

Though grandmotherish in tone, devoid of vision, and musically challenged, she does pull some of the poems off in this collection. For that I will give her one star, one which I hope she will wear proudly.
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