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Halflife: Poems

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  158 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
The insomniac speakers in Halflife are coming of age in a mythical world full of threat and promise. Seeking their true selves amid the fallen cathedrals of America, they speak wryly of destructive love affairs, aesthetic obsession, and encroaching war, but refuse to abandon hope in the power of imagination.
Hardcover, 87 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2007)
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Mar 02, 2009 rated it liked it
While the five star rating system may have annoyed me for my reviews of prose, it is completely impossible to apply to poetry. What if I feel rather meh about most of the poems and can't forget the rest? Should I average it out to three stars? That seems like a disservice to the ones worthy of five. It's a flawed system.

Some of you poems deserve fives. Some of you, twos. You know which ones you are.
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is the second book of poetry I have read by Meghan O'Rourke, the first being her most recent, Sun in Days: Poems, which was also a chance pick-up at the library for me. I subsequently read her memoir, The Long Goodbye, about grief and the loss of her mother which is what clinched my somewhat starry-eyed love for Meghan O'Rourke's writings.

Since I completed Halflife in the early part of January, I have gone back and dipped into it a couple of times and revisited a couple of the poems I liked
Oct 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: female-writer, poetry
I've read complaints about how Meghan O'Rourke doesn't deserve all the success she has had in the poetry world, and I don't understand it. After reading Halflife, I am a fan of her poetry. I think it's great! The book was an enjoyable read.

Her poems are polished and tight, the images were surprising.

I love the tone of the book, it feels menacing and uneasy like a dream before it turns into a nightmare. As I read the poems, I kept thinking that they were all true, even when it would be pretty un
May 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
She starts a poem called "My Teenage Life" with the line:

I felt "remorse for civilization"

I love her. I love this collection, for its combination of sunshine and radioactive waste (both are, in fact, cancer-causing). The two long selections (sections 2 and 4 of the book) are my favorites, they weave in and out of themes. I read the whole thing cover to cover, for like the fourth time, on a sunny day by the waterfront.
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Yes, her work is reminiscent of Plath at times* and this collection is a mite uneven but damn if some of these poems didn't pierce my heart. As the back cover blurbs call out, she's very good at killer last lines. Definitely a poet to watch.

*But, I would add, in the "sincerest form of flattery" way. from the Academy of American Poets
Prepare for the 2010 Poets Forum in New York City (October 28-30) by reading O'Rourke's newest book of poetry, and check out the Poets Forum 2010 bookshelf for the latest collections by each of the poets participating in the Poets Forum. Happy reading!
Jul 27, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: poets
Good first book but too many echoes of Plath and Gluck. Especially in the first section of this book -- the Plath influence overpowers the poets own voice. I think she's an interesting writer though, and I would buy her second book.
May 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful imagery in these poems - the kind of poems that deserve reading after reading.
Aug 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
4 or 5 stars...hmmm, can't quite decide. But I LOVE the poem Inventing a Horse! Beautiful.
Sometimes I just feel like I can see the stitches of her poems, know what I mean?
Jeremy Allan
Aug 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Reading this book was enjoyable, but I mostly found myself thinking: Her future books will be what matter, to me.
May 06, 2007 rated it liked it
Yale poetry by a Yalie from Yale (sigh). Verbally interesting, thematically tiresome, stylistically pretentious. Don't bother.
Ted Burke
Dec 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Giving voice to hunch, making the half-idea a textured, tangible thing, Meghan O'Rourke's poems is a completes sentences we cannot finish ourselves. Precision and morphological accuracy aren't the point, and the words themselves, the images they create or suggest, are more like strands of half remembered music that is heard and triggers an intense rush of association; any number of image fragments, sounds, scents, bits of sentences, suggestions of seasonal light in a certain place, race and para ...more
Jul 18, 2017 rated it liked it
there are fields inside us. They grow.
Nov 21, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
It's good to pick up a poetry book occasionally, even for someone thoroughly grounded in the here and now. The poet's use of language forces the reader to abandon convention and let the mind fly free, just a bit. That's a good exercise for any reader.

I picked up this book because I enjoy Meghan O'Rourke's Slate book podcasts. She's enjoyed a good deal of early success and it will be interesting to watch Ms. O'Rourke as she matures and mellows with the years.

My favorite lines, from VIII. The Lost
Nov 09, 2008 rated it liked it
One of the things I'm most interested in lately is how a book of poems animates itself around some central event, some reason for their having been written. With some books, like Susan Stewart's Yellow Stars and Ice, the force of the poet's investigation is enough. In O'Rourke's book, my suspicion is that some violent event from her childhood is at the center of the poems, but she puts such distance between herself and this event that I don't know whether to believe it happened to her or some ot ...more
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry, 2012-read
This never clicked. I thought it would, the language was excellent, the images were interesting, it just never got to that one poem that hit me between the eyes. Instead I got a general mood of threat and malice that never coalesced.

I would probably read more of her poems, just because there were lines or phrases that I enjoyed, but this collection didn't quite get as far as I hoped it would go.
Nov 25, 2009 rated it liked it
I really liked a lot of the poems in this book. They're skilful and striking. Vacillated between giving this book a 3 or a 4. Settled on 3 because some things in one or two of the poems seemed a little inevitable. Just a bit. BUT I think O'Rourke is very talented. Favourite poems: 'Descent', 'Halflife', 'A Further Sea', 'Epitaph for Mother and Child', 'The Lighthouse Keeper', 'Thermopylae', 'Signal Fires', and 'Pilgrim's Progress'.
Terry Heller
The poems in this book are really good. I don't really know how to review a book of poetry, because its a collection instead of a single whole, and you can't really sit down and read a book of poems, which are meant to be analyzed and chewed-over, in the way that you can a novel or a history book. But I'm glad I read it.
Jul 21, 2008 rated it liked it
This slender debut book of poems was quite heavy on metaphor usage. I re-read some of the poems on subsequent days after reading the whole thing through, and only then did some of them have some value/meaning. However, I am also still a novice in the area of poetry, which is why I like Roger Housden's collections in which he includes commentary.
Rating: None. Somewhere in the 3 - 4 range though.

A lot of lines that were almost noteworthy, poems that were just out of reach of their potential. This is a collection I should probably revisit - in a different mood, at a different pace.

My favorite pieces:

Section III of "Still Life Among Partial Outlines"
"Anatomy of Failure"
Jan 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is one of those books that you sit down and pleasurably read from beginning to end if you have a quiet space in which to do so. Most of the book was just okay, tending toward a kind of safe tangentiality in lieu of direct intimacy. The first long poem, however, is fantastic, working with metaphor in a deeply effective way.
Jeff Streeby
Dec 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: NEC
Recommended to Jeff by: My daughter
Stunning language.
Resonant figures.
Each particle is like a Picasso serigraph.

A favorite so far is "Hunt." I will begin again from the beginning in an attempt to comprehend the book's devices, sequences and movements.
Sep 08, 2012 rated it liked it
The other reviews of this book on this site contain the biggest words I have seen yet in any review of a book that I've read.
Joan Colby
Jul 12, 2012 rated it liked it
There are some very good poems and a lot of mediocre ones which is typical of a first book. O’Rourke’s reputation seems to outflank her talent
Aug 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, fierce little poems. My favorite was "Descent."
Jun 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: mmmmm-poems
what a strange mix between beauty and grotesque. i liked the first and last sections much better than the epic crap in the middle.
Gregory Knapp
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
One of the most engaging young, contemporary poets I have read in a long time.
rated it it was amazing
Dec 31, 2007
Carli Brosseau
rated it really liked it
Jan 04, 2012
Renee Alberts
rated it it was amazing
Aug 25, 2010
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Poetry Readers Ch...: Halflife by Meghan O'Rourke 6 8 Mar 10, 2018 07:12AM  
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Meghan O’Rourke is the author The Long Goodbye: A Memoir (Riverhead Books, 2011), and the poetry collections Once (W. W. Norton, 2011) and Halflife (W. W. Norton, 2007). A former literary editor of Slate and poetry editor of The Paris Review, she has published essays and poems in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, The Best American Poetry, and other venues. She is the recipient of the 2008 ...more
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