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On Speaking Terms (Lannan Literary Selections) Paperback – January 1, 2010
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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Her poems do not confuse, do not require an MFA in creative writing to fathom meanings. You don't need a degree in psychology or an unabridged dictionary at hand to understand the everyday events she describes and the tiny griefs and wistful joys they contain. Take for example her truly magnificent poem, "Closest to the Sky." A mother climbs to her boy's attic bedroom after his departure and finds common objects he left behind, then experiences her boy's cast-off environment, and Wanek ends the poem with a last line that may tear your heart out. A similar poem, "Comb," tackles the same subject beautifully and leaves no doubt that somewhere is a son who's still deeply loved.
We feel as if we've been there, done that, in every poem. Wanek's poem titles say it all: "Jelly Beans," "Coloring Book," "Blue Ink," "Pumpkin," "Garlic," but the subtle emotional tug we're left with after reading each one gives us a perspective on common events and objects we might have missed in our own encounters with them. Let me leave you with this little gem, entitled "Monkey See":
What he saw, he did, if he could.
A stick was a gun, a rock a bomb.
He threw it up and it came down
and landed in the sand box
smashing a solid little house
that he could reerect by pressing
mud into a plastic cup
and dumping it over.
Play was work, his craft,
his long informal apprenticeship
into the ancient guild