Mark Desrosiers's Reviews > Selected Poems

Selected Poems by Alice Notley
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's review
Dec 13, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: poetry
Read in December, 2007

From Jeffers to Ginsberg to Karl Shapiro, the "long line" always just rubs me the wrong way. It's usually too chatty, and when someone's trying to pull off incantation (e.g. Ginsberg), it just becomes a major snoozefest. Alice Notley's long-line poems tend toward the chatty end of the spectrum -- often literally evoking a droning conversation -- and I don't dig them much. But her shorter poems blow me away. "The Goddess Who Created this Passing World", "Margaret and Dusty", and "Backyard" especially. And my jaw dropped when I came to the semi-autistic "White Phosphorus", which feels like overhearing countless bus-ride conversations at once, just a major beautiful work. ("The Song of Allette" tries the same thing again but feels more coherent and less like magic.)

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