Books by Sandra Alcosser

EXCEPT BY NATURE by Sandra Alcosser
Released: June 1, 1998

Selected by Eamon Grennan for the National Poetry Series, the second book by the San Diego State writing professor (A Fish to Feed All Hunger) resembles many recent volumes in its near-generic invocation of a white ethnic working-class background—with the obligatory reference to grandma's cooking—and its monotonously plain style and diction. Mostly autobiographical, Alcosser's simple poems digress from their Shaker aesthetic only in her descriptions of flora and fauna, especially in the dozen or so pieces set in Louisiana, where she apparently taught remedial writing, and suffered through the humid nights, obsessing about snakes and palmetto bugs while lying in sweaty sheets, inhaling the sickly sweet smells of the lush foliage. At Mardi Gras (—Burying the Carnival—), the poet panics in the crowd, even as she experiences a certain ecstasy, and news of an escaped convict from Angola finds her waiting in her sexiest lingerie at home (—Maximum Security—). In poems about growing up near her father's body shop, Alcosser breathes in some more ripe smells: —the raunchy fume— of her father's workers, and, of course, the cooking by the Slavic and German immigrants. Out West, the poet contemplates nature: She tries to feed a domesticated duck (—Greenhand—); she ponders a spittle bug that —resembles/a friend's identity crisis—; and she considers her own status as —an animal who will love/and die.— The ten or so prose pieces better suit Alcosser's anecdotal imagination, her memory riffs on old boyfriends, her aunt who loved hats, and college. Prosey and pedestrian. Read full book review >