cover image DOOR INTO THE MOUNTAIN: New and Collected Poems

DOOR INTO THE MOUNTAIN: New and Collected Poems

Jean Valentine, . . Wesleyan Univ., $24.95 (308pp) ISBN 978-0-8195-6712-3

Short, jagged works exhibit a primal fierceness while longer works tell straightforward stories about companionship and disappointment in this very mixed survey. Valentine won the Yale Younger Poets award in 1965 for a first collection (Dream Barker ) whose gloomy rhymed visions suggested Lowell and Plath: "I am thrown open like a child's damp hand/ In sleep. You turn your back in sleep, unmanned." Like many other poets in those years, Valentine abandoned her early forms for a more direct free verse, suited to mysticism, to personal turmoil and to political protest: "slowly our exploding time/ gives off its lives." Valentine grew even more direct, and much more discursive, in the late '70s; if her middle period now seems very much of its era, the last decade has shown—and this solid volume confirms—a return to her strengths. The defiant, angular, yet propulsively emotional recent poems that occupy the first and last parts of the book should please both fans of Valentine's earliest poetry and fans of her strongly feminist middle period: subjects range from the nature of the soul to an obstetric fistula, a woman's prison, an emblematic scarab and an embryo "her head still floating/ listening listening/ to the Real Life." (Nov.)