Cult of the Right Hand

Elaine Terranova, Author Doubleday Books $17.95 (97p) ISBN 978-0-385-41811-9
Winner of the American Academy of Poets' Walt Whitman Award for 1990, judged by Rita Dove, this fine first collection reveals the role of ritual in most basic elements of human experience--childhood, familial relationships, love, death and longing. Terranova examines how we come to define ourselves in relation to the ``quickmovingstet. sg world,'' our lives unconsciously guided by the ceremonies of daily existence: ``To lock doors / and to shore up the earth / in backyards and gardens. / To keep in every closet, / every cupboard/something hidden of ourselves.'' In the poet's stark vision of the world, where 18 ``the dark extinguishes us,'' it is this familiarity of small acts that offers consolation as we confront the ``sweet failures of every day.'' Terranova's compelling thematic focus is skillfully played out in her unrelentingly direct and unembellished language and simple, declarative statements whose rhythms become near-incantatory and ultimately renewing: ``It is June. We stand in line / in the schoolyard under the sun, / singing. These are / our loudest voices of the year.'' (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
Paperback - 97 pages - 978-0-385-41812-6
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