Janine Pommy Vega is the archetypal New York Beat. Her poetry is intelligent and politically aware, and her performances in English and in Spanish, with and without music are intense, incantatory. Her writings are also intensely autobiographical, following closely in the footsteps of her life-journey: they are the poetic record of her experience-hungry travels through the world and her spiritual retreats into herself; her work with public school children and delinquent youth, and with the inmates and staff of the New York State prison system; her friendships and her love affairs, her farewells and her lingering memories. For this major retrospective volume, she has selected the best lyrics, protests, portraits, and elegies from her first twenty-five years of writing. The result is "an honest and passionate road map to her soul," said the American Book Review, "a book describing one poet's life as a pilgrimage toward herself. It is an exhilarating trip."
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Associated with poets growing out of the Beat movement, Vega's verse is at the well-measured and understated end of its spectrum. This 12th collection presents a generous cull of her work from the '70s, '80s and '90s,invoking the direct, even neoclassical energies felt within Corso and di Prima, and fortified by a Keatsian living lyricism. In "Little Ghost in the Station," she writes, "`Poor John is dead,' he sang,/ and now it was winter, quiet at the window,/ and she did not need a cigarette/ she needed to weep." A member of PEN's Prison Writing Committee, Vega has taught poetry in prisons for twenty years and is currently director of Incisions/Arts, an organization of writers working with people in prison. Some of Vega's overtly political poems reflect a deeply felt and aching knowledge that has tempered and fortified a poignant view of nature, human or otherwise: "just because fields are ready for/ planting doesn't mean/ the corn's already down there, green and/ waiting, or that raccoons will scream/ at night, their hands heavy with plunder/ might, might not be/ might, might not, the chattering crows/ wheel off." In other poems there is a note of passionate response to the death of the speaker's father, mother, friends, that show death as a natural fulfillment life. In a heartfelt elegy for Allen Ginsberg she writes, "Don't be sorry, you said, speaking/ of your death,/ I've been waiting all my life for this." Spanning over three decades and four continents--stops include Mexico, El Salvador, the former Czechoslovakia, Peru, Ireland, France, Holland, and all manner of locations in the U.S. and upstate New York--Vega's poems "go," (as Kerouac said, but with a difference) in their own patient, unadorned and dignified way. (Aug.)
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Arranged in six sections, Vega!s 12th book of poems provides an in-depth tour of her poetic oeuvre. Each section echoes Vega!s recurrent themes: nature, death, prisoners, family history, and travels in Ireland and in South America. This collection, like many of the individual poems in it, could have used some editorial winnowing. Though Vega often shows a deftness of touch and a keen ear for language, the shorter poems are more powerful: dear butter/ your blues/ your mouth harp sweet/ chicago/ winter nights. In poem after poem, Vega shows herself to be an adept poet of place"as in the title poem, which describes a cafe in Les Halles: after a night we could find the strong/ men from the market/ and the beautiful prostitutes/ resting in each other!s arms/ Le Chat Qui PIche, Le Chien Qui Fume/ alive with Parisian waltzes, his hands on her ass. Unfortunately, when Vega tackles political issues, polemics dominate: Dear Nuclear Commission: Don!t you have children?/ Or grandchildren? What about them? But when she writes from the heart"as in To You on the Other Side of This, a love poem to a murdered son as well as a battle cry of anger directed at his killer"we are immediately drawn in. Recommended for larger poetry collections and all academic ones."Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN
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Book Description Black Sparrow Books, 2000. Hardcover. Book Condition: Good. Signed. Satisfaction 100% guaranteed. Bookseller Inventory # mon0000255599
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Book Description Black Sparrow Books, 2000. Hardcover. Book Condition: Used: Good. Bookseller Inventory # SONG1574231286
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