The Butcher's Apron

Diane Wakoski, Author Black Sparrow Press $17.95 (250p) ISBN 978-1-57423-144-1
Wakoski's 25th book of poetry is also her second selected, complementing Emerald Ice: Selected Poems 1962-1987 by covering work written between 1988 and 2000. Wakoski, a California native who has lived in Michigan since the mid-'70s, uses the selections to lay thematic emphasis on, as her introduction notes, the ""beauty or the lack thereof"" found in preparing and eating food. Using a kind of plainly spoken, autobiographically grounded line, Wakoski allows her fascination with culinary imagery to lead her speaker through a reflective self-analysis in the face of the aging process: ""Had I/ learned/ to draw/ rather than eat, I am sure/ that I would have found less anguish in my life."" The book is divided into five sections, the last of which contains a new part of Wakoski's long poem ""Greed,"" an examination of her self-described ""obsession about purity"": ""At once she learned that saving something/ meant giving it up./ That is, if you saved your chocolate,/ you couldn't eat it."" Wakoski is a dedicated independent, long refusing to align herself with any particular camp or aesthetic, and her work can tread close to an isolated process of self-mythologizing (the speaker often compares herself to Medea and Medusa). The work tends to be strongest when it is most self-consciously outspoken--""Silence is not a good opponent/ for injustice and unfair treatment./ It participates/ in a way I still can't allow myself."" (Feb. 15) Forecast: Wakoski has been dutifully published by Black Sparrow for years, and it will take some high profile reviews to lift this book beyond her constituency. This may be the time for it, though, since this volume, despite the skew toward comestibles (food-centered collections take note), completes a two-volume selected.
Reviewed on: 10/02/2000
Release date: 10/01/2000
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Hardcover - 250 pages - 978-1-57423-146-5
Hardcover - 250 pages - 978-1-57423-145-8
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