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POEMS by Anne Michaels


by Anne Michaels

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-40140-7
Publisher: Knopf

Michaels, whose first novel (Fugitive Pieces, 1997) was published to considerable literary acclaim, couples profound intellect

with deeply felt emotion in a volume that includes two award-winning collections of poems previously published only in Canada

(The Weight of Oranges, 1986; and Miners Pond, 1991), along with new work, Skin Divers. The earlier volume is more personal

than the rest of the book: While its poems show less finesse in the author’s overuse of clich‚d imagery like bones and stones,

they set forth the themes of time, memory, and loss that continue to obsess Michaels in her later poems. If, for the Michaels of

The Weight of Oranges, "Memory wraps us / like the shell wraps the sea," by the time of Miner’s Pond memory requires form.

In the near-monumental "What The Light Teaches," Michaels states what may be the whole volume’s central thesis: "Language

remembers." What distinguishes the author and raises her above many of her peers is the way her personal life informs but never

overwhelms her poems, while her intellectual ardor for language and formal thought only occasionally distances her (and the

reader) from feeling. As she says in "Words For The Body," one of many of her poems in which art embraces human experience,

"No words mean as much as life." These are ambitious poems, often narrative, often in the voice of others, often written to an

absent "you." They are almost all love poems, and the love expressed—whether for lover, friend, sibling, parent, or child—is

unabashedly passionate and ultimately optimistic. Michaels is wrestling with the way that love survives despite separation, even

death. There may be loss and longing but never diminishment of love.

With the exception of some narratives that flatten into literalness: a volume of intensely felt emotional truth, strengthened

by intellectual rigor and haunting imagery.