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Long before she became well-known as a prose writer (A Natural History of the Senses, 1990, etc.), Ackerman had published volumes of verse that reflected her keen interest in science and the natural world. In this, her sixth collection, she clutters her work with unappealing displays of ego and a fascination with the mythology of herself that together distract from her otherwise splendid, more impersonal celebrations of “natural wonders” and “tender mercies.” After “humbly” proclaiming her roles as guardian, healer, messenger, and architect, Ackerman praises “life’s bright catastrophes,” elegizing Carl Sagan in a poem that remembers the good old days, before the two of them were “basking on the Riviera of fame.” In a handful of poems, Ackerman mocks therapists— “timed talk” and insensitivity—compared to hers—while reminding us elsewhere that she’s “a free spirit,” a “caresser of life,” and a “mischief hound.” Despite some writing-school-style formal exercises (a pyrrhic, a ghasel, and some credible imitations of James Wright and Auden), Ackerman is at her best in artful poems that embody the sensuality of nature, luxuriating in a lyric vocabulary all her own.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-44878-0
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998

Kirkus Interview
Diane Ackerman
author of THE HUMAN AGE
September 8, 2014

Diane Ackerman is a poet who happens to write about science. Her latest book, The Human Age, is about the unprecedented fact that the human race is now the single dominant force of change on the planet. Humans have “subdued about 75 percent of the land surface, concocted a wizardry of industrial and medical marvels, strung lights all across the darkness.” Ackerman acknowledges the chaos humans have caused to the environment and yet she is still “enormously hopeful,” as she writes in the book, about how positive our interaction with Earth can be. We ask Ackerman about a few little things in this Kirkus TV interview: nature, evolution, humanity. View video >


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