cover image Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems 1970–2005

Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems 1970–2005

Alice Notley, . . Wesleyan Univ., $29.95 (364pp) ISBN 978-0-8195-6772-7

Over the last quarter-century, Notley has crafted an increasingly important body of work that mixes unabashed lyric beauty with jerky snippets from a capacious mind. Her books, however, have been haphazardly and often obscurely published by both small and major house; this collection brings together, for the first time, poems from all points in Notley's career, making available many pieces that have long been impossible to find. Beginning as a poet of the second generation of the New York School, Notley (who was married to the late Ted Berrigan, and, with their two sons, recently edited his Collected Poems ) developed a mostly autobiographical, stream-of-consciousness style. Her meditations and sequences take an array of forms and modes, including collages of her children's voices ("These are my silver mittens Mommy"), short lyrics recalling famous figures ("The late Gracie Allen was a very lucid comedienne"), as well as absurdist poetic diaries and letters ("P.S. My own temperature is a perpetual 101 degrees"). More recent poems that come to terms with her marriage to Berrigan are among her best: " 'You haven't wanted to talk to me since I died,' he says." While somewhat idiosyncratically organized, this is an essential book. (Sept.)