DANGER AND BEAUTY

Jessica Hagedorn, Author . City Lights $17 (238p) ISBN 978-0-87286-387-3

In the grassroots tradition of her "satin sisters" Thulani Davis and Ntozake Shange, Hagedorn's latest book collects work written during her Bay Area sojourn in the early '70s (poems first published by Kenneth Rexroth to whom the book is dedicated) all the way to post–Septmeber 11 entries in her "New York Diary." Along the way, we encounter texts written for the page as well as the stage, the boundaries between verse and prose often traversed and blurred. As a Filipina-American, Hagedorn reminds us from the start that "There is a border/ One cannot cross/ Although the guards are not visible." Such rallying cries seem to come right out of the feminist politics of an Adrienne Rich, but add to that the street-smart culture of the Tenderloin and the riffs of North Beach jazz and you get some hauntingly jaunty rhythms: "born from the mouth of a tree/ the lullaby of joe loco/ and mongo/ turquoise eye/ the lullaby of patti labelle/ and the bluebells / flowers of her smile." While the collection is uneven, read as a sort of artistic diary (rather than a set of highly polished art objects) it is often quite moving, taking readers through the turns of a restless mind, "a fighter/ who confronts/ destiny." (May)

Forecast:Hagedorn's 1990 novel, Dogeaters, won an American Book Award, was an NBA finalist and was the Before Columbus Foundation's Book of the Year; Hagedorn's theatrical adaptation of the book recently premiered at the Joseph Papp/Public Theater New York Shakespeare Festival. Sales should be strong as this well-produced book should reach fans of her fiction, and the performance and poetry circuits already know Hagedorn's work well.

Reviewed on: 05/27/2002
Release date: 00/00/0000
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FORMATS
Paperback - 209 pages - 978-0-14-017340-6
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