The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

April 14, 2009

Jonathan Galassi On Maureen McLane

Samelife This year for National Poetry Month, FSG Publisher Jonathan Galassi has agreed to say a few words about our upcoming poetry collections. You can expect his comments here every Tuesday and Thursday for the rest of the month.

Today I want to say a few words about a young poet whose work has brought me a great deal of delight.

Maureen McLane's SAME LIFE was published last fall. As the two complementary and contrasting drawings by Sol Lewitt on its jacket suggest, there are (at least) two lives in SAME LIFE-- the life experienced and the life considered if not always in tranquility then in retrospect. As Maureen writes in one of her understated, often devastating lyrics, "Same View": 

same view

same long lush lawn

same three tall maples and their lower kin

same windwashed lake

and beyond, the immemorial mountain

the sleeping granite man

still keeps his giant sleep

but I have come back

and I am not she

The changes that come into a life that is the same and yet not, the discontinuous nature of our experience which still contributes to a unified self—that is Maureen's territory. She brings to it a refreshingly spare, classically-informed modernist lyricism that hops backwards over several generations of poetic lingo to something at once modest, pure, direct, and commanding.

Maureen is also a gifted critic and her book BALLADEERING, MINSTRELSY,  AND THE MAKING OF BRITISH ROMANTIC POETRY, was recently published by Cambridge University Press. Her poems are brilliant, sometimes wickedly aware, deeply sophisticated, and amazingly moving. She understands sexual politics AND love AND death AND loss AND memory and writes about them all with the kind of clarity that engraves itself on the mind. There is nothing same-old same-old about SAME LIFE.    


After Sappho 1

some say a host of horsemen, a horizon of ships
under sail is most beautiful but I say it is whatever
you love I say it is


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