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Break the Glass

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  98 ratings  ·  16 reviews
"[Jean Valentine's] poems are a rare pleasure: serious and graceful, never glib, testimony to the strength and beauty of the lyric as a music of words, not ideas. As elliptical and demanding as Emily Dickinson, Valentine consistently rewards the reader."—Library Journal

In her eleventh collection, National Book Award–winning poet Jean Valentine characteristically weds a mor
Hardcover, 81 pages
Published September 21st 2010 by Copper Canyon Press (first published September 1st 2010)
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Jean Valentine's poems have been a part of my inner landscape since I discovered them--and Valentine herself, as a professor--as a college undergraduate. Recently winning the National Book Award, Valentine's brief yet rich, utterly dream-like but true poems have finally received their due. Among the poetry condensers (Armantrout, Guest, Howe, etc.), Valentine is to me the most effective and affecting. Her plunges into the meaning of the soul are never far from the real world, and her genuine hum ...more
Craig Werner
After having a long poetry conversation with my friend Trudi, I'm adding the fifth star to this book. The poem "Desert Prison" and the "Lucy" sequence I noted in the original review get deeper each time I return to them. I hadn't fully registered the richness of the conversations between the poems in the volume. This is a book I'll come back to frequently.

This was my first encounter with Jean Valentine, who won the National Book Award for her collected poems in 2004. I was drawn to the volume by
Jean Valentine is often grouped among poets who dismantle the conventions of making meaning—as though that’s the main ambition of her work. Her intentions, instead, are to articulate experience in ways that familiar patterns of speech cannot. In Break the Glass, Valentine’s twelfth book of poetry, she speaks in fragments that have no easy-to-follow syntactical pattern. However, this seems exactly the right approach to describe her mysterious and fully present inner life. These are not quiet inne ...more
Jon Cone
Jean Valentine demonstrates in her poetry, as one critic put it, a 'tough strangeness.' It isn't minimal in the way haiku is, but in the way dream often is: abrupt, inconclusive, mythic, fragmented. Here is one poem, quoted in full:


The wild ladders of longing
no longer pieces of wild wood, sawed off
and fitted to each other,
no longer stored in a closed-off room
with one blank window

But called back, through
the closed-off wooden ceiling, to his
speech return
Sorrowful, a fine honing of the sense of separation in short, direct lyrics. Her images are more singular and contained than in Pilgrims. "Ghost Elephants" is haunting, especially in this line "Don't think I ever went free."
It's hard to evaluate a book of poetry because it's all so objective. Some of these poems really got to me and made me think and were wonderful to get lost in, while others, to me, were lost themselves. Really great imagery always, though, and the author says her goal would be to write something plain as day and yet still mysterious. She's definitely done that, although sometimes leaning more toward the mysterious. This is more a book of feelings than knowledge, more ideas than actions. Definite ...more
Kasey Jueds
Another five star poetry book from the month of March. I love all of JV's work, especially her more recent poems, which seem to get both more mysterious and more intimate. These are best read (at least for me) in one sitting, or as close to that as you can manage; the more time you spend with her work, the easier it is to feel immersed in her unlike-anyone-else's world... the easier it is to really feel the poems. These, for the most part, are brief and spare, but there's a beautiful longer sequ ...more
Elizabeth Scott
There are some good poems in here, but what really makes this collection stand out is that Valentine has an entire section devoted to Lucy, the earliest known hominid, and those poems have *so* much in them. Here's a sample:

Lucy, what you want,
that I will do.
To hear you know.
Your poem. (But you need nothing.)

The deer and the wild turkeys
that draw close now to hear you.
My life is for.
In its language.
Your voice.

I can't tell cold from heat.
Death, no
not even dust.
Awesome section "Lucy"
Another beautiful, spare poetry volume by Jean Valentine, both surprising and instantly recognizable in its vivid, compressed images about the joys, sorrows, and puzzlings of people as they go about the business of life: moving, sleeping, "cleaning up a house," "racing like horses," "resting against the bus window/tired horse/tired rider."
alyssa carver
i really really wanted to enjoy this more! "river at wolf" is one of my all-time favorite books, and it took me so long to even find another jean valentine book... but i just don't love it as much as that one. i recognize that this isn't really a fair way to assess a volume of poetry. i'm sorry! i still love you, jean valentine!
"Don't listen to the words--
they're only little shapes for what you're saying,
they're only cups if you're thirsty, you aren't thirsty."
don't read this yet,
my thoughts are still packed down
like crumpled letters, and some of us
will not get quite free--
Really enjoyed this, she has a gift for a turn of phrase. Will have to read more of her work later.
Loved this--one of the best collections I've read this year.
Aug 06, 2014 Sara rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
The "Lucy" poems are so many things I like.
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Jean Valentine (born April 27, 1934) is an American poet, and currently the New York State Poet (2008–2010). Her poetry collection, Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965–2003, was awarded the 2004 National Book Award for Poetry.

Her most recent book Break the Glass (Copper Canyon Press, 2010) was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Her first book, Dream Barker, won the
More about Jean Valentine...
Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965-2003 Little Boat The Cradle Of The Real Life Home Deep Blue The River at Wolf

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