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il cuore – the heart: Selected Poems, 1970-1995 (Wesleyan Poetry Series) Paperback – September 15, 1997
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“A wonderfully composed selection from Fraser’s brilliant poems. An elegant intimacy guides the entanglement of language in ‘the logic of secrets’ and ‘the outskirts of/meaning.’ A triumph of the curious happiness of poetry,” (Robin Blaser)
“My respect for Fraser’s work is elevated again. Her later poems retain an earlier hi-jinx and delight, while yearnings of technique are replenished by maturity, Fraser is reminding us she considers poetry to be a sublime progression.” (Barbara Guest)
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She writes: The letter A is a plow/Was A/where/you made and/unmade your mind.../first hesitation/when you doubted/what you/thought you/were/looking for?
A highly stylized tool for observing and uncovering the world, language, in Fraser's hands, becomes poems of imagistic precision that uncover beauty and our own response to it. The twenty-five years of work in Il Cuore are poems of a disjunctive and fragmentary structure that still manage to convey a feeling of wholeness and completeness. The author makes use of mathematical diagrams, the shapes and shadings of letters as well as lyric odes to fashion lovely skeletal poetry whose dense pockets of energy and blank spaces create a palette of Impressionism, much in the way Debussy did with music. One example is Tree: One did hear/the flow of nearby branches/shear occasional and limp/yet this rawness/moves, is/moving/even sudden atrophy/of limb.
Fraser, who lives part time in Italy, knows her subject matter well and, with few words, manages to convey all the differences between what's seen, what's felt, what's said and most of all, what's only perceived. In one of Giotto's Arena chapel frescoes, Fraser sees: a salmon length of brick the same/as Virgin's gown, angel feathers/salmon flesh and roe/lifting one swift arc. She is a poet with the talent to perceive perception: motion (less leaves) blue sky/inlaid their branching/lightness/pale rose breadth/of shade/through intervals.
"The New," Fraser says, "comes forward in its edges in order to be itself." The poems in Il Cuore, so filled with lyric skeletal beauty, create impressions with their silences as much as they do with their carefully-chosen words. These are truly poems that cut deep and remain.