The Crack in Everything

Alicia Suskin Ostriker, Author University of Pittsburgh Press $24.95 (100p) ISBN 978-0-8229-3936-8
Ostriker has long been admired as both a feminist literary critic and a poet. The accomplished poems in her expansive eighth collection are grounded in the details of a woman's daily life and speak with the appeal of an intelligent, sympathetic friend. A broad-based politics enters this work routinely, like the morning news. Sensitive persona poems move the speaker into the realm of foreign wars, the bombing of MOVE in Philadelphia and the rape of a mentally retarded girl by her high-school classmates. Ostriker's poetics claim, as in ""The Class,"" ""To gather pain into language, to promise/ The critics are wrong, the other professors are wrong/ Who describe an art divisible from dirt,/ From rotten life."" Yet these poems insist on life's essential goodness and passionate joy: ""At the intersection of poverty and pestilence/ The planet's children, brave as hell, juiced/ Out of their gourds, invent the sacred dance."" Within her generous vision of human imperfection, Ostriker confronts middle age and mortality with deft touch and wry humor, so that by the time we reach ""The Mastectomy Poems""-whose observations cut as clean and sharp as the surgeon's scalpel-we are already immersed in her sensibility that ""tragedy/ Is a sort of surrender."" (May)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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