The King

Rebecca Wolff, Author . Norton $24.95 (127p) ISBN 978-0-393-06932-7

In her third book, Wolff (Figment ) keeps company with Sylvia Plath, Sharon Olds and Beth Ann Fennelly, challenging the idea that motherhood is a glossy miracle that makes the mother special. “I had a baby,” writes a deadpan Wolff, “it was inevitable—I was pregnant.” In these short, jagged poems, motherhood often manifests itself in anxiety and self-consciousness: “I mean to say// something here! Not to enact/or reference.” Wolff is leery of such commands to the self, and leerier still of their results. In “A History of Depression,” she describes the defective desires of an upset speaker: “You command,/ in your grasp, a unicorn,/ or some other damned, faux-virginal/ beast: Paleface on the gospel path,/ damp./ Inclined to list.” Wolff, editor of the literary journal Fence , divides this long collection into seven sections, the first six of which carry titles evoking those forces that dominate the poet: “The Condition,” “The Baby,” “The King,” “The Man,” “The Baby,” “The Lord.” Wanting to negotiate—intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and poetically—such concepts leads Wolff into the mind’s knottier realms. In the book’s final section, “Depth Essay,” the speaker can be breathtakingly brave in her confessions, if not always pretty: “I’ve had my children and cannot/ take that back. Buddhists call // it suffering.” (June)

Reviewed on: 05/18/2009
Release date: 06/01/2009
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 127 pages - 978-0-393-33890-4
Open Ebook - 128 pages - 978-1-324-00130-0
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