All We Need of Hell

Rick Lesser, Author, Rika Lesser, Author University of North Texas Press $12.95 (88p) ISBN 978-0-929398-92-1
In her second collection (after Etruscan Things), Lesser leads her readers on an exploration of mental illness that is less a descent into madness than a journey towards emotional health. Detailing her experience with depression--suicide attempts, hospitalizations and the often devastating effects of medication--Lesser demystifies depressive illness in poems that are direct, reflective and instructive (a glossary of pharmaceutical and medical terms is included). These are not highly figurative or dramatic poems like Plath's, to whom Lesser will inevitably be compared. Instead, Lesser rejects ornament and artifice, the ``merely beautiful'' and ``well-made'' verses that now leave her cold, in favor of straightforward, often journal-like, narratives that ``praise simple/ actions, human/ and possible.'' Lesser plumbs language (etymologies, sounds, the work of literary predecessors) for its regenerative powers as she faces her own illness and the deaths of friends from AIDS and cancer: ``... if there have been no words, no tropes for/ such occasions before, I must find them now.'' (July)
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
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