VINEGAR BONE by Martha Zweig


Age Range: 0 - 8195
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paper 0-8195-6359-5 The debut volume of this Vermont-based poet frequently apostrophizes the both reader and the poet herself, giving warning in often cryptic little poems of sneaky death and the impermanence of things. Zweig affects a childlike voice and relies on a simple vocabulary for verse that flirts with nonsense; her cramped syntax and odd diction result in enigmatic poems that often turn the commonplace into objects of wonder and fear. At their hypnotic best, Zweig’s poems break into song, fractured children’s ditties in which a bedtime kiss or night-time darkness provide no consolation. The poet’s antisentimental imagination resists putting “the joy noise” into words; for all her girlish surfaces and dreams of stars and moons, she lingers on harsher realities. As the title poem makes clear, even bones soften and rejoin man to woman, a relationship that provides little happiness throughout the volume. Sex may be the only way for children (—No Child—), but love seldom lasts (—Percussive” and “Spooked—). At the shore, in “Fidelity,” the speaker considers “the best of love” to be something “not human” at all. While the poet cannot console her own child, she also finds little guidance from her mother, who, after death, appears in her dreams as the “Death Escort.” More scary than sexy: frank and disillusioned verse that raids children’s songs and phrases to gather up its light surfaces. But Zweig’s darker self finds hermetic wisdom in the language of stones and bones.

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 1999
ISBN: 0-8195-6358-7
Page count: 72pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1999