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The Salt Ecstasies

4.35  ·  Rating Details ·  78 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
The powerful and influential last poems of an unsung master, now again available, with a new introduction by National Book Award winner Mark Doty

James L. White's The Salt Ecstasies—originally published in 1982, shortly after White's untimely death—has earned a reputation for its artful and explicit expression of love and desire. In this new edition, with an introduction by
Paperback, 63 pages
Published June 22nd 2010 by Graywolf Press (first published 1981)
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Brent Calderwood
Mar 29, 2011 Brent Calderwood rated it it was amazing
(reviewed for

Part of Graywolf’s wonderful “Re/View” series, which publishes important work by out-of-print and outsider poets, The Salt Ecstasies, one of the jewels in the crown of Graywolf’s impressive poetry catalogue, seems long overdue for such treatment. Luckily, it was worth the wait. Series editor Mark Doty introduces the collection with a thoughtful essay, and has included two previously uncollected poems, as well as excerpts from White’s journals.

In addition to makin
K.M. Soehnlein
May 30, 2012 K.M. Soehnlein rated it really liked it
The first story I ever published, in 1992, was in the James White Review, a now defunct journal of stories and poems and essays by gay men. I never knew who James White was until a couple months ago, when I heard the poet Mark Doty speak about him – specifically, about going to the library where White's papers were housed. These “papers” turned out to be one plastic box filled mostly with diaries. Doty talked movingly about the experience of encountering these handwritten pages and realizing ...more
Jun 19, 2012 Ie rated it really liked it
I'm so glad that Graywolf reprinted this. I especially love the opening poem, An Ordinary Composure probably because I am partial to prose poems. I also love the series of poems—Gatherings, and Poems of Submission. I suspect White's strengths are displayed best through resonance, a ripple of images and themes.

Also, Doty was correct in choosing to quote the following lines in his introduction:
In this joyous season I know my heart won't die
as you and the milk pods open their centers
like a first sn
It was with a dour scowl that I first eyed a slim, musty, and altogether grim copy of James L. White’s The Salt Ecstasies. I was juggling the rigors of professorship while completing my MFA, and White’s was one of a dozen inter-library loans (most of which were rare and/or out of print) I needed to inhale upon arrival as part of my required coursework. According to the card sleeved in its back cover, the book hadn’t felt a reader’s hands in years, and I bristled at being assigned a collection of ...more
Jun 11, 2012 Jayme rated it really liked it
I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book from Graywolf Press without any prior knowledge of James L. White or his work. It was something that, once started, demanded my attention. In the same token, I was sad to finish this book. An incredibly solitary, evocative group of poems, who's words literally made this reader ache. This was no pity party; you felt for White and his loneliness, but it never seemed petty or overbearing. This was a well-worn pain, one that was so artfully described ...more
Apr 03, 2014 Rainey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, 50-in-2010
An interesting look into the life of an odd and entertaining man. Poignant and honest look at sex, death, and culture.
Darin Ciccotelli
Jul 11, 2010 Darin Ciccotelli rated it really liked it
I don't have much to say here, but I recently revisited these poems, and I still found them to be quite lovely. Moreover, Mark Doty's introduction is really well-done.
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James L. White was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1936. At the age of sixteen, he began his training as a classical ballet dancer and was awarded a scholarship to the American Ballet Theater School. He danced for ten years in America and Germany. After his dance career, he attended universities in Indiana and Colorado, and then taught among Navajo tribes in New Mexico and Arizona. White came to ...more
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