Inland

Inland



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2000
82 pages
Paper: 
$19.00
0877455821
9780877455820

“Pam Alexander's Inland is quietly acute, witty, and lovely to read. Her poems embrace the outdoors, her poems are giant houses that have beds for foxes, spiders, and tender people.”—Alan Lightman, author of Einstein's Dreams

“The language in Alexander's third collection, winner of the 1996 Iowa Prize, demonstrates its own shrouded grace, pierced by sudden moments of clarity.”—Publishers Weekly

Pamela Alexander's poetry is characterized by inventive language, scrupulous accuracy of imagery, and a winning fusion of the comic and the deeply serious. Her subjects vary as widely as her settings, which range from the New Hampshire woods to the Arizona desert. A family life eccentric to the point of chaos, close observations of wildlife, and coastal sailing are among the poet's topics.

Despite this variety, Inland has an emerging organization that suggests a kind of plot. The family is left behind in the way that families of origin always are, revealed fully only in perspective: “foghorns / in the harbor, two different pitches / at different intervals / repeating so often I didn't hear them / and their accidental harmonies / until I'd left town.” Shifting toward the subject of new relationships, in her diatribe against a past (and passing) lover Alexander gives a new twist to the fact that this subject has been fair game for poets for centuries: “…you could say hello, you canoe-footed fur-faced / musk ox, pockets full of cheese and acorns / and live fish and four-headed winds and sky…”

James Merrill, praising Alexander's first book, called it “a wonderful achievement. Her language is now simple, now playful, now extremely poignant.” This is an apt description of Inland as well, a book that shows Alexander in witty yet serious engagement with the world. The longest poem here, “Swallowing the Anchor” (the title is the sailors' term for giving up the sea), is also the most directly personal. It closes the section of the book in which the poet comes to terms with losses, including the death of the loved one. She does this with grace—and her wit is not jokes, her poignancy is not sentimentality.

Table of contents: 

One

Down on the Farm

Impromptu

Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor

Mt. Auburn Owl

Jugglebirds Abroad

Seminar

From the Book of Foxes

My Mother and the Myriad Things

Soon

Manners

My Brother’s Back

Nots

Accidentals

 

Two

Fogbow

Souvenir

Mt. Panatubo

Fortune

Look Here

Northeast Suite

Origin

Passage with Owls

Slip

Ease

Spill

Bog at Black Pond

Understory

 

Three

The Rode

Lettered Olives

Sonoran

The Comma a Portrait

Waking

In the House You Built

Foxlight

Swallowing the Anchor

House Song

What We Need

Excerpt: 

What We Need

A roof over
three squares.
Warmth to wear,
something to burn

in winter. Water
music: sheets
of rain hung out
to dry. Time, or

the habits of light.
A road that thins
in hills. Hills.
Once an image

sufficed; now I see
we must speak.

Subjects: