The Bad Wife Handbook

Rachel Zucker, Author
Rachel Zucker, Author . Wesleyan $22.95 (114p) ISBN 978-0-819568-46-5
Reviewed on: 10/15/2007
Release date: 01/01/2008
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Over the course of the five sections of Zucker’s third collection, the poet examines wifedom as it functions in language, motherhood, religion and science (“The first wife was a hard-working molecule”). Zucker (The Last Clear Narrative ) attempts to unpack the many meanings of the word “wife”: “if the language would slip I could see what limber chance remains me.” Always hovering is the “husband”—of whom the speaker says, “here comes my husband again and / my mind, I’m describing; context”—and the shadow of a real or imagined lover, who haunts the poems. Zucker’s formally supple pieces range from shorter lyrics to discursive, meditative sequences; the book closes with a series of chatty, confessional poems titled “Autographies,” in which the poet continues to plumb personal experience, often in a disarmingly direct fashion: “Shall we discuss married sex?” By turns meditative, fearful, angry and loving, at their most scattershot these poems about marriage, fidelity, lust and motherhood can be disorienting for the reader, perhaps intentionally so. (Nov.)

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