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The Last Two Seconds: Poems

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  153 ratings  ·  24 reviews
The eagerly awaited new poetry collection by Mary Jo Bang, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award

We were told that the cloud cover was a blanket
about to settle into the shape of the present
which, if we wanted to imagine it
as a person, would undoubtedly look startled—
as after a verbal berating
or in advance of a light pistol whipping.
The camera came and went, came
Paperback, 88 pages
Published March 3rd 2015 by Graywolf Press
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Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  153 ratings  ·  24 reviews

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Peycho Kanev
Dec 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry

The rotational earth, the resting for seconds:
hemisphere one meets hemisphere two,
thoughts twist apart at the center seam.
Everything inside is.
Cyndi Lauper and I both fall into pure emptiness.
That’s one way to think: I think I am right now.
We have no past we won’t reach back—
The clock ticks like the nails of a foiled dog
chasing a faster rabbit across a glass expanse.
A wheel of fortune spins on its side,
stops and starts. The stopped time
is no longer time, only an illusion tha
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've only recently started to really start reading poetry, and I absolutely love the raw imagery and moments of self reflection. "Death without life. Terror. Fear. Disaster. / Punishment. Profound darkness. Evening./ She walked to the window: sky,/ clouds coming into the room./ How odd, she thought, to be. " I'm not quite sure I understand all of this, but I do know I would love to read any more of her work.
Superstition Review
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is a wild ride. Mary Jo Bang creates off-the-wall images and is at times cynical of our presence on earth. “…the buildings teetering before falling / the way ideologies might sway back and forth / as if they were preserved in a glass tower / that was about to be toppled.” However, the book has its moments of vulnerability and inward reflection such as, “I think that chaos fascinates me. I say, / I am a part of that, one of the characters in the cage.” Mary Jo Bang dabbles in varied for ...more
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
This was just not my kind of poetry. She has a great eye for images and ear for language; her poetry is carefully constructed and never cliche. But it leaves me absolutely cold. Nothing here for me to hold onto.

I dislike the way she weaves together multiple images instead of focusing on one central one. Sometimes I have read this done in a compelling way, but not here, unfortunately. It came across as disjointed rather than as cohesive.

She clearly knows what she is doing but I just could not e
Mark Ballinger
Jul 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bingo-2015, poetry
This is writing that makes you think, but mostly be bothered that you don't have context for the ideas behind the words. With most poetry, I can find that place to connect with my own thoughts, feeling, emotions, and experiences. That hook was infrequent in this book, but it doesn't totally bother me.

A palimpsest is something with something behind it. Behind her was a plan and a face in a window at night that essentially said, You see yourself where you're not.
Angela Lim
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

If you're looking for heartwarming and hopeful poetry to distract you from doomsday and the looming collapse of the world... this collection is not for you. Throughout this book, Bang makes heavy use of sentence fragments and repetition, creating a list of anxiety-inducing aspects of the world and creating a sense that we are just moving through our lives, talking and noticing, but ultimately not having a long-lasting impact that can salvage our planet and society. Still, I think this w
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2019, poetry-2019
"And now the question: what do we do with the longing
for what can destroy us? You're free to think:
logic can change even the most obstinate person; or

even logic cannot change the most obstinate person."

-from "The Earthquake in this Case Was"

The collection is a tough nut to crack at the start, but Bang teaches you how to read her poems over the course of the first twenty pages. The narratives are dense and they don't seem to care too much if they're impenetrable at times--not unlike the Jorie Gra
Ben G
Oct 14, 2017 rated it liked it
This is very good, very well researched poetry that's hard to connect with. I often love difficult poems that are generated by the brain (more than emotion), but I think I wanted more connective tissue to clarify why these poems belong in a collection. Maybe it's there, but if so, it's out of my reach.

This is the first of Bang's work I've read, and it appears that if I want intense, wrenching emotion, "Elegy" is the book to read.
Gabriel Clarke
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
I struggled with this and (not for the first time) resented the tyranny of the rating system. Mary Jo Bang is a fantastically accomplished poet. I greatly admired her translation of the Inferno. But the fact is that this simply didn’t sing to me, at this point, in this place, and I’m at a loss as to how to explain why. So, 4 *. But I experienced it as a “3”.
Courtney LeBlanc
Mar 20, 2020 rated it did not like it
Unfortunately I just didn't care for this collection of poems. I wanted to be pulled into them but none did that and I found myself drifting or skimming as I read. Just not the book of poetry for me I guess. =/
Ace Boggess
Apr 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Beautiful lines. A few poems I thought were astounding. Overall, I just didn't connect with this book the way I hoped I would. Still, worth reading, and at no point did I feel an urge to give up. It was insightful enough that I'll pick up others of her books, though.
Jan 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting at times from a noted Dante translator.
Jul 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
Mary Jo Bang is absolutely talented and has well-deserved accolades. This collection is no different - with stunning images, interesting wordplay, and really powerful messages in compact spaces.

However, it isn't necessarily my cup of tea. It gets very clinical and expansively intelligent - which I admire in a writer and like to be able to read since it's so unlike what I normally read. But at the end of the day, this kind of intellectual writing isn't my cup of tea. That isn't to say it isn't m
M- S__
Feb 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
i struggled to rate this because i read it in a bit of a hurry, though maybe i was supposed to. the central focus of the collection seemed to be time: specifically how we're running out of it. much of the imagery folded neatly into this idea. some of the poems seemed acutely aware of what "absence" meant and employed interesting imagery to fill the vacancy. many of the poems, however, were just kind of there. as soon as i would get a foothold into them, they either ended or changed direction. i ...more
John Tessitore
Aug 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
I find this collection entirely opaque, and the end notes don't help. The problem here is syntax, the folding and refolding of thought. It's like reading a closed carpenter's ruler. Rhythm would help. Or a surprising turn of phrase. But the language here is peculiarly lifeless, as if to highlight the line of thought which, to my eye at least, is too crooked to be read with anything like pleasure or recognition.
Chris Drew
Sep 21, 2015 rated it liked it
This book was good, but not great. There are a few 'great' moments, it is consistently intelligent, funny, and subtle but never really transcends into something truly touching. It is very much in the style of late 20th century academic poetry... a little less difficult and overstuffed than something like Paul Muldoon, but in the same vein.
May 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Patti K
Aug 19, 2015 rated it liked it
This recent volume of poems is well-done but not all that
satisfying to this reader. Mostly a grim tone with a lot
of language play. Cleverly done. Deals with Moments, Time,
and Identity. From a series called "Let's Say Yes": "The
body was busy thinking, conjuring/the museum of the moment."
Brooke Van
Apr 15, 2015 added it
Shelves: poetry
I picked this poem book because the students will be able to relate and maybe write their own poems based off of these poems in this book.
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Just to clarify...this collection is intelligently/eloquently written. However, it just wasn't the kind of poetry I enjoy reading.
Anne, Unfinished Woman
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
This collection just wasn't for me. I enjoyed the imagery and use of language as I was reading each poem, but it left me as soon as I started the next one.
rated it it was amazing
Mar 07, 2015
Jeffrey Parker
rated it it was amazing
May 30, 2018
chad  morgan
rated it it was ok
Nov 30, 2017
rated it really liked it
Aug 07, 2019
Robert Costic
rated it did not like it
Nov 30, 2016
Jack C. Buck
rated it it was amazing
Jan 02, 2018
rated it it was amazing
Jul 07, 2015
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Mary Jo Bang is an American poet. In her most recent collection, The Bride of E, she uses a distinctive mix of humor, directness, and indirection, to sound the deepest sort of anguish: the existential condition. Bang fashions her examination of the lived life into an abecedarius—the title of the first poem, "ABC Plus E: Cosmic Aloneness Is the Bride of Existence," posits the collection's central p ...more

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