MRS. DUMPTY by Chana Bloch


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The third book of poems by the translator and Mills College professor won this year's Pollak Prize, selected by Donald Hall, who was no doubt impressed with Bloch's unusually taut confession, a far cry from the long, weepy lines of most autobiographical complainers. And Bloch has much to bemoan: her volume moves through the story of her marriage and its dissolution, complete with stage and musical direction (""Act One,"" ""Crescendo""). It's not a particularly pleasant tale either, partly doomed from the start with a honeymoon in Yugoslavia, a country whose subsequent history wildly foretells Bloch's personal breakup. The early poems in this sequential collection provide typical scenes from a troubled marriage, with not a few clichÆ’s, such as the poet's identification with Hedda Gabler, or her sense of being used up by childbirth. Even the first signs of her husband's blind rages and her attempts to pacify seem a big kvetch. But once Bloch details his certifiable nutty behavior, and his period in the psycho ward, we begin to appreciate her ""hard carbuncular anger"" and ""jackhammer rage."" Therapeutic language sneaks into a couple of poems, but Bloch mainly controls her story with her wrenching clarity of expression. The integrity of Bloch's imagery and her stunning metaphors mediate her grievances, and save this strong volume from the dustheap of poetic confessionalism.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
Page count: 80pp
Publisher: Univ. of Wisconsin