Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Mysteries of Small Houses” as Want to Read:
Mysteries of Small Houses
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Mysteries of Small Houses

4.36  ·  Rating Details  ·  279 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
Alice Notley vividly reconstructs the mysteries, longings, and emotions of her past in this brilliant new collection of poems that charts her growth from young girl to young woman to accomplished artist. In this volume, memories of her childhood in the California desert spring to life through evocative renderings of the American landscape, circa 1950. Likewise, her coming ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published June 1st 1998 by Penguin Books (first published May 1st 1998)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Mysteries of Small Houses, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Mysteries of Small Houses

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 592)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Aug 19, 2008 Kim rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: poets, especially
Shelves: favorites
Notley's a poet who's unwilling to honor parameters, be they stylistic or social, so her work is, in many ways, a testament to the difficulty of this refusal.

This collection, in particular, addresses the problem: how to construct a notion of self (cohesive or otherwise, on paper or otherwise). In Mysteries, Notley examines moments/phenomena/time from her childhood up to the present in an attempt to understand (the thing referred to as) her life. It would be overly simplistic to refer to this col
May 04, 2008 CA rated it it was amazing
There is a recording of Notley reading THE AMAZING poem "C-81" from this book here: It's hard to choose a FAVORITE Notley book, but this is without a doubt one of my favorites by her! You may also want to read an interview I did with her where I ask her a series of questions about writing these poems: EVERYONE should own this book!
Isabella Aidar
Apr 01, 2015 Isabella Aidar rated it really liked it
Alice Notley’s Mysteries of Small Houses reads to me as a poetic and self-reflective diary of Notley’s life from childhood to moving around the USA to her marriage to Ted and his death. The book moves chronologically (although on a very surreally-conveyed journey) all the way to her current life in Paris.
Her poetry can be hard to follow at times, a challenge which I don’t mind, as it is highly personal, uniquely philosophical, and abstract. However, to me it is abstract in a way that a well-cr
May 24, 2012 Caitlin rated it it was ok
notley is obviously gifted and this book is occasionally beautiful, but I couldn't finish it. too much navel gazing, too much speculation about the identity and construction of the self blah blah blah. very 1990's. even the teacher who assigned this said that such questions are beginning to seem dated and trivial in a world where people are more likely to be wondering how they are going to afford feeding themselves.
Alexandra Naughton
Feb 05, 2013 Alexandra Naughton rated it it was ok
I really liked Alice Notley's poetry until I heard her read in San Francisco. She kinda killed it for me.
Mar 12, 2009 Sean rated it it was amazing
"Disobedience especially to my audience..."
Aug 13, 2010 Renee rated it it was amazing
This is the first book that I read by Alice Notley. My poetry teacher introduced it to my class when I was a sophomore in the Residential College at UofM. Less than a year after I read it I went to study abroad in Munich, which wasn’t completely because of the book (my German teachers also had a lot to do with it), but I think the book helped to influence my decision. There is a poem in the book called “1979 A Dream” in which she writes:

We saints have a score of music

and as we sing some are “tra
Jan 10, 2016 Milo rated it liked it
"Bad I've been bad in this house
I've allowed burning inside me; I
remember my ancient dream,
in which a woman tells me,
'Your house only burns inside; it's
still standing...'"
- from "Not Child"
"this isn't nice of you I'm never
nice now
can't figure out how to be that if
I must
kill this man over and over in
order to
- from "The Tyrant"
Erin Zwiener
Nov 12, 2014 Erin Zwiener rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
"I choose words, more words, to cure the tameness, not the wildness."

Just exquisite.
Feb 15, 2009 Abby rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, mfa-4th-term
These poems hold the reader at bay, but not simply for the sake of doing so. As she struggles to render memories and self in words, Notley also struggles against language imposing order on experience. When describes the poems as collages, what is most interesting about the comparison (to me) is the idea of words as found material, refitted to a creative use. Somehow through her poetry Notley is able to remind us that experience is not fundamentally linguistic, but that we construct meaning using ...more
Aug 22, 2016 Helen rated it liked it
Sometimes being well read is a curse. You begin to see certain tropes repeated over and over again. Women poets write about family. Parents, husbands, children and lovers. Gaining them. Losing them. Feeling ambivalent about them.

Had I read this book ten years ago, I'd probably have given it four or maybe even five stars. As it is I'm beginning to wonder what is wrong with we women poets, we band of sisters, that we can't escape our relationships and write something new.

These are good poems. Th
Apr 04, 2015 Tracy rated it it was amazing
I do not want to return this to the library. I am risking fines.

As usual, Notley made me gasp and grab my heart. This book is full of grief and humanity.

"The night's full of people who are like us, but not
in their words for what happens: I feel closer to them than
to most poets but I can't live without our words."
Timothy Green
Nov 25, 2008 Timothy Green rated it did not like it
Molly Peacock recommended this, and I just couldn't get into it. Stylistically interesting, but why am I supposed to care about your stereotypical adolescent experiences? It's like reading Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man without a main character. So many people love it, though. I must be missing something...
Aug 24, 2008 e rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poems
A good sampling of her work. Combining sophistication and childhood awkwardness with stark, haunting imagery, these poems are as mysterious as they are beautiful. You feel different after reading each one,like you know a secret only you and the pages share.
Jan 01, 2010 Cindy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"I am
what I asked for
I'm speaking
I speak like this." from "House of Self"

"I like my poems. They're
as good as rocks." from "As Good As Anything"
Jul 26, 2009 M. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009, poetry
Twisting words through four decades of the-life-of-a-poet. Good. Really good. Notley's lyricism is totally unlike anything I've ever read, I think.
Dec 14, 2008 Olga rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite poetry books from when I was 16 and 17. Very influential on my own style. Amazing.
One of the best poets working today. Autobiographical & visionary.
Maria Zapanta
Oct 12, 2011 Maria Zapanta is currently reading it
Shelves: poetry
"I am
what I asked for" -House of Self
Dec 01, 2008 Blueberry rated it it was amazing
Ausma marked it as to-read
Aug 26, 2016
Aimee marked it as to-read
Aug 23, 2016
Sareem marked it as to-read
Aug 21, 2016
Ivy Writers Paris
Ivy Writers Paris rated it it was amazing
Aug 17, 2016
Emily H
Emily H rated it it was amazing
Aug 16, 2016
Sarah marked it as to-read
Aug 12, 2016
Crystal rated it liked it
Aug 26, 2016
Will marked it as to-read
Aug 08, 2016
Fglier marked it as to-read
Aug 07, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 19 20 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Deepstep Come Shining
  • Humanimal: A Project for Future Children
  • The Collected Poems
  • Veil: New and Selected Poems
  • Midwinter Day
  • Fuck You-Aloha-I Love You
  • My Life
  • Muse and Drudge
  • Collected Works
  • The Cow
  • Girls on the Run
  • American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Where Lyric Meets Language
  • Case Sensitive
  • Zirconia
  • The Outernationale
  • The Maximus Poems
  • Singularities
  • With Deer
Alice Notley (born 8 November 1945) is an American poet.

(from Wikipedia)
More about Alice Notley...

Share This Book

“We name us and then we are lost, tamed
I choose words, more words, to cure the tameness, not the wildness”
More quotes…