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Bite Every Sorrow

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  81 ratings  ·  15 reviews
Whether honoring a dead friend or reveling in the lustful music of insects, whether on a Costa Rican bus "hot enough to contain all desire" or on a BART train abundantly full of experience and memory, whether delighting in the wacky wisdom of kids or ruing the silly hunger of adults, Ras's poems poke into unlikely nooks and invented crannies. Lines that find their start in ...more
Paperback, 90 pages
Published April 1st 1998 by LSU Press
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Sep 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I have never actually bought this book, and God, I need to. . . Barbara Ras is the author of one of my fave poems, "You Can't Have it all" (Really sweet, really happy) (My other fave is actually called "You Can Have It" (Very bleak and hopeless) and is by Phillip Levine.)I'm actually not kidding, or trying to be weird or ironic, or get some kind of strange attention. These are actually two of my faves!! So here it is
You Can't Have It All
by Barbara Ras

But you can have the fig tree and its fat
Nov 20, 2008 rated it liked it
C. K. Williams selected this book as the 1997 Walt Whitman Award winner, and I can see why. It is, in its strongest pieces, reminiscient of Williams' own long-lined work. Some beautiful and gracious descriptions of couplehood and of motherhood. The section about her Polish grandmother and great-grandmother ought to have been left out (where was the editor?) as it was banal, though obviously meaningful to the poet. Descriptions of living in the tropics were striking and heat-imbued, but all in ...more
Feb 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is terrific from start to finish. Inventive, deeply passionate poems that astonished and moved me. I can see why it won the Whitman Prize, and I think Walt himself would have loved these pieces.
Jun 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
She just might be my favorite...her and Adrienne Rich
Randy Fritz
Aug 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Barbara's poetry is startling, beautiful, intense, and accessible. What more could a person want from a poetry collection?
Livia Bacchi
Nov 30, 2018 rated it liked it
This book has one of my favorite poems of all times: "You Can't Have it all" by Barbara Ras
I also found a few other poems touching and memorable, though many did not speak to me quite as much.

"There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother's,
it will always whisper, you can't have it all,
but there is this.”
Sep 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Lindsey by: Marianne Boruch
Favorite poems in the collection included:
"You Can't Have It All"
"The Bus Hot Enough for Everything"
"In the New Country"
"The Sadness of Kids"
"Other Deaths"
"My Train"
"God in Hawaii"

I really like the way she expands out and out with associations and theme, but because she really doesn't do anything with enjambment/line break and speaks mostly in complete, declarative sentences, I sometimes wonder why these are not prose poems.
Mar 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
The first poem in this collection -- "You Can't Have It All" -- is worth getting the book. It's just spectacular. Each of the other poems has multiple surprises. Imagine beginning a poem with, "The sadness of fruit is like the sadness of scissors, their blue handles..." or "It was the ocean I wanted, waves like pets running out, coming back..." I'll just have to read more Barbara Ras.
Apr 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
I sat in the sun, reading these, and one poem touched me so deeply that I began to cry. (Keep in mind that I began reading these the week after my best friend died.) The poem, 'Letters To The Front, 2' from a wife to her husband at war, speaks of death and remembrance, and was, for me, the standout of the book.
Nov 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
That's surprising.

I have loved Ras's "You Can't Have It All" for years. And I still do, but I see now why someone dismissed it as overly sentimental. And I'm not as struck by the other poems in this collection as I would have thought I'd be — the imagery isn't dramatic or unusual, the vocabulary doesn't do startling things. I'm a little disappointed.
Oct 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
"You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look
of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite
very sorrow until it fled, and when it is August,
you can have it August and abundantly so."

--from "You Can't Have It All"
Literary Mama
Apr 22, 2012 added it
Shelves: poetry
Bite Every Sorrow is part of our poetry "essential reading" list.

See the full list here:
Adam Ross
Oct 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
On the whole, a solid collection of poems. Above the usual par for contemporary offerings.
Mike Good
Sep 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
a fine collection of poetry. intense and meaningful.
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“And when adulthood fails you,
you can still summon the memory of the black swan on the pond
of your childhood, the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas
your grandmother gave you while the rest of the family slept.
There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother's,
it will always whisper, you can't have it all,
but there is this.”
“Top Dog"

If I could, I would take your grief, dig it up
out of the horseradish field and grate it into something red and hot
to sauce the shellfish. I would take the lock of hair you put in the locket and carry it in my hand, I would make the light strike everything
the way it hit the Bay Bridge, turning the ironwork at sunset into waffles.
If I could, I would blow your socks off, they would travel far, always in unison,
past the dead men running, past the cranes standing in snow,
beyond the roads we rode, so small in our little car, it was like riding in a miner's helmet. If I could I would make everyone vote and call their public servants to say, “No one was meant for this.”
I would go back to the afternoon we made love in the tall grass under the full sun not far from the ravine where the old owner had flung hundreds of mink cages.
I would memorize gateways to the afterworld, the electric third rail,
the blond braid our girl has hanging down her back,
the black guppy we killed at our friends’ when we unplugged the bubbler and the fish floated to the top, one eye up at the ceiling, the other
at the blue gravel on the bottom of the tank.
I would beg an audience with Sister Lucia, the last living of the children
visited by Our Lady of Fatima, I would ask her about the weight of secrets, if they let her sleep or if she woke at night with a body on her body,
if the body said, “Let's play top dog, first I'll lie on you, then you lie on me.”
I would ask how she lived with revelation, the normal state of affairs amplified beyond God, bumped up to the Virgin Mother, who no doubt knew a few things, passed them on, quietly, and I would ask Lucia how she lived with knowing,
how she could keep it under her hat, under wraps, button up, zip her lip,
play it close to the vest, never telling, never using truth as a weapon.”
More quotes…