In the world of Memye Curtis Tucker's poetry, the observed are on display, on trial, on guard, or disappearing, and often changed by the eyes upon them; the gazers are benevolent, threatening, judgmental, separate, invisible.
There is in the poems a surface accessibility; mysteries in this book are not puzzles or ellipses, but moving revelations of paradox and unending possibilities. And while many are meditative there is always the tug of the narrative impulse.
Northrop Frye has remarked upon the centrality of the epigram in Tucker's writing. But beyond the epigrammatic quality and the elegiac stance of much of her work, whether her subject matter is a turkey caller or a town covered over by an airport runway, is the hope of holding on, even if provisionally, to what disappears by watching as it is transformed through memory and art into “a fugue, a twisting leap, pigment the color of flame.”
Louis Simpson, this year's judge of the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize, said of Tucker's work, “the writing is elegant in the sense engineers use, the forms and style being fitted to their purpose. I was not able to predict what this highly intelligent writer would turn to next, and found that whatever it was would be a pleasure to read.”
Memye Curtis Tucker is the author of three poetry chapbooks, and her poems have appeared widely in literary reviews. Recipient of numerous prizes and fellowships, she is a senior editor of Atlanta Review and teaches poetry writing at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta.
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If you think that Turner Cassity has mellowed or slowed down since the 1998 release of his selected poems, The Destructive Element, think again. In No Second Eden Cassity is back more Swiftian than ever. Among the targets reduced to ruin are countertenors, parole boards, the French Symbolists, calendar reformers, the Yale Divinity School, and the cult of Elvis. Without turning a blind eye, he even extends a toast to Wernher von Braun.
Like a voyage to the Portuguese islands of the title, the poems in Azores arrive at their striking and hard-won destinations over the often-treacherous waters of experience—a man mourns the fact that he cannot not mourn, a father warns his daughter about harsh contingency, an unnamed visitor violently disrupts a quiet domestic scene. The ever-present and uncomfortable realities of envy, lust, and mortality haunt the book from poem to poem.
Lucien Stryk has been a presence in American letters for almost fifty years. Those who know his poetry well will find this collection particularly gratifying. Like journeying again to places visited long ago, Stryk’s writing is both familiar and wonderfully fresh. For those just becoming acquainted with Stryk’s work, Zen, Poetry, the Art of Lucien Stryk makes an excellent introduction.