Once: Poems
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Once: Poems

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  70 ratings  ·  13 reviews

The incandescent poems in Once explore violence, loss, and recovery. Invoking both the personal and the civic self, they chart uncertain new beginnings in a shattered nation. What emerges is both a poignant meditation on a daughter's relationship with her mother and a citizen's relationship to her country.

from "Frontier"

. . . At times,

I felt sick, intoxicated

by BPA and m

Hardcover, 89 pages
Published October 3rd 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Jeremy Allan
O'Rourke is somehow a technician who manages to keep the machine feeling. I was dubious about appreciating this book, considering the foregrounding of certain themes, specifically the specificity of the speaker's grief. How can specificity go wrong in a poem or a collection of poems? Well, I was afraid that the book would invite too much reduction, where we're always tempted to think, "here is a poem about the poet losing her mother." Not that such a statement or sentiment is inherently wrong, b...more
Christina Marie Rau
Meghan O'Rourke's Once travels backwards and forwards, making much of the possibility of a forgotten past and all the possible futures the world could have. The subtle changes over time emerge as cracked lights and darker skies while the bigger changes lurk beneath, following the death of a mother figure. The focus changes with each poem between the literal and the figurative with some heavy-handed nature metaphors. Some poems speak to each other like "My Life As A Ruler" being the adult respons...more
There's an atmospheric intensity to this collection that lingers even after the book is closed, and its impossible to say whether the wistfulness I'm left with now is hers or my own.
O’Rourke’s second poetry book is divided into 3 untitled sections, suggestive of before, during, and after. The collection opens with the title poem, “Once,” in which the narrator describes an idyllic childhood. It starts with:
A girl ate ices
in the red summer. Bees
buzzed among the hydrangea,

The first 5 stanzas continue with summer, suggestive of long, slow, days. Then 2 stanzas for fall, followed by 2 stanzas for winter. In the final stanza, life changes drastically.
When spring came, the home
Patricia Murphy
I found some poems repetitive, and also sometimes the pronouns felt distancing. The center section slipped too far into abstraction for me, especially after the searing personal details of the first section.

Some of my favorite moments:

“The shelf of snow
is loosening on the roof.”

“not a metaphor at all
that disease.”

“On TV a hurricane beats a boat.”

“The sky above your head
blue, lacerated, clear.”
Just discovered this poet; this book resonates, it is about mothers and daughters, and I am a daughter, and my mother is fading from me in a different way, but i can feel it. the poet writes about very tangible things as someone is dying, a machine that administers morphine boluses, a noisy oxygen machine (which are never quiet, i think they must be loud to remind people to keep breathing); an inventory of belongings modeled on an inventory of grief. she also writes about the intangibles:

"i don...more
The poems in Once (which I'm still beginning to read, but wanted to post about while it's in my mind to do that) make me immediately and simply happy. The combination of austerity and structure with powerful feeling is rare. These poems know things--for me that is bedrock--but know without enforcing, only inviting---and that is the clear lake above. One of the strongest poets of the generation now coming into its own, O'Rourke's voice is both sure and fearless.
Luci Mireles
I absolutely adore her poetry - it's very raw and emotional. I very much want to read her memoir, The Long Goodbye, before I go into too much detail about the poetry. I can't imagine visiting the same experiences through two mediums because I don't think I'd be able to bear it. She does it beautifully in this collection, and I'm hoping that the earlier memoir that covers her mother's diagnosis, illness, and death is equally beautiful and affecting.
Sep 13, 2012 April rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone, especially poetry fans
Once is an excellent book of poetry. I think my favorite of all the poems is Seven Months Later. It speaks to me because I can totally relate to the words and meaning.
Erin Price
I found this in a used bookstore's sidewalk box in San Francisco and it is lovely. A dreamy and melancholy collection.
Tim Fredrick
A nice collection of poems that centers on feelings of grief.
A strong work or personal and national loss. Poignant.
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Meghan O’Rourke is the author The Long Goodbye: A Memoir (Riverhead Books, 2011), and the poetry collections Once (W. W. Norton, 2011) and Halflife (W. W. Norton, 2007). A former literary editor of Slate and poetry editor of The Paris Review, she has published essays and poems in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, The Best American Poetry, and other venues. She is the recipient of the 2008...more
More about Meghan O'Rourke...
The Long Goodbye Halflife: Poems The Best of Slate: A 10th Anniversary Anthology During the Reign of the Queen of Persia Kenyon Review Summer 2010

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