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You've Just Been Told: Poems

Elizabeth Macklin

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ISBN 10: 0393048675 / ISBN 13: 9780393048674
From Dan Pope Books (West Hartford, CT, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

New York: Norton, , 2000. First edition, first printing. Hardbound. New in dust jacket. A perfect unread unopened copy. Flawless. Poetry. SIGNED BY AUTHOR on title page, 0.0. Bookseller Inventory # x0032

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Bibliographic Details

Title: You've Just Been Told: Poems

Binding: Hardcover

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: F....

About this title


In this collection, an only child's responses to the faits accompli of childhood come to the mind of the adult in the presence of change and grief.


Elizabeth Macklin's moments of clarity--those elusive bubbles that pass across our line of vision and bring emotional realization into magnified focus--come in short, sharp bursts. As a result, reading her poetry can be exhausting, but in an addictive way, as though one is taking jagged, intoxicating gulps of pure oxygen. The poems in her second collection, You've Just Been Told, seem to split reality apart for the reader and zoom in on the "single thread in focus, the stranded intended / margin." Existence, she goes on to tell us in "Detail from a Large Work," is seen in the small "pieces of what / it wasn't." Pursuing these paradoxical fragments, Macklin expertly separates life from our nebulous understanding of it--and pulls off a similar trick in regard to memory and loss.

Much of the first section, "Grammars of Attention," is heavy with grief. Macklin often fends off pain with detachment: "On a day like this, when I have no paper / and look for scraps, the sun sets early. / It's black at five." Self-consciousness also turns out to be a handy anaesthetic, as in "Foolishly Halved, I See You":

The white-green wheel of a sliced lime
after a day: so naturally dry,
and so protective of all its remaining
This is the quick thought so sly
of the classic survivor.
The past is relentlessly peered at and parsed. Yet Macklin is quick to admit that she's working with defective tools--i.e., language itself--and that "grammar / was a bad subject. It could always impale, / and repel, you with a concept."

The poems in the final section, "Persons Plural," are fittingly more inclusive of the reader: we're offered a chance at last to sneak in behind the poet's viewing lens. It feels as though grief has been moved to arm's length, and this extra distance offers a welcome respite. Yet we can't escape the close-up intensity of Macklin's gaze, even if (as she asserts in "Grace Cathedral Maze") such proximity has its own pitfalls: "Just thinking that we are close, in that poem, / moves us away." The correct focal length for meaning or melancholy is, of course, anybody's guess--but Macklin's attempts to find it leave us much the richer. --S. Ketchum

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