Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976–2006

Ellen Bryant Voigt, Author . Norton $25.95 (238p) ISBN 978-0-393-06250-2

Consistently respected by her contemporaries, Voigt's quiet but often violently powerful poems of autobiography, pastoral and history have not always gained the broad attention they deserve. This seventh book (her first retrospective) may ensure that she gets it. Voigt's descriptive powers pop out first: a snake, for instance, is a "wrinkle coming toward me in the grass." Her anecdotes, scenic lyrics, parables and loosely structured sequences ask, however, to be judged for the ways in which they depict people—the poet, her husband, her sisters, their ailing and dying parents, or, in Kyrie (1995), the victims of the devastating flu epidemic of 1918. Voigt seems to know a lot about birds and bird-watching, and even more about the classical piano repertoire; these specialties further enliven the sensitive poems of domestic and wild spaces she has composed throughout her career, from a catalogue of birds early on to a recent "redbird fixed on the branch like a ripe fruit." Voigt's latest and most original poetry delves furthest into the human interior, finding—like a friendlier, warmer version of Voigt's longtime friend Louise Glück—the hidden motives behind all human endeavor: "the past," she writes, "is not a scar but a wound;/ I've seen it breaking open." (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/20/2006
Release date: 01/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-393-06982-2
Paperback - 238 pages - 978-0-393-33144-8
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