Notes, Reviews & Interviews
Review of Laura Chester's Riding Barranca by Lyn Lifshin
Interview with Tiger's Eye, Sept 23, 2003
Excepts and Notes:
from Michael Hathaway of Chiron Magazine
"Here she is! Might as well stop fighting it. Lifshin is not going to go away. For men, she's sexy. For women she's an archetype of gutsy independence. As a poet, she's nobody but herself. Frightening prolific and utterly intense. One of a kind." San Francisco Review of Books
Lyn Lifshin's poetry appears in almost every literary and poetry magazine, from American Scholar, Christian Science Monitor and Yankee to Ms., Rolling Stone and Ploughshares. She has edited 4 anthologies of women's writing including TANGLED VINES (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) now in its second enlarged edition and chosen by Ms., magazine as one of the 60 best books of the year. Other anthologies she edited include ARIADNE'S THREAD and LIPS UNSEALED. "The No More Apologizing, The No More Little Laughing Blues," included in her new book, BEFORE IT'S LIGHT from Black Sparrow Press, has been called "among the most impressive documents the women's poetry movement has produced," by Alicia Ostriker. "Writing Mint Leaves at Yaddo," a prose piece was selected as one of the best pieces of writing about writing by Writer's Digest and Story magazine.
The award-winning documentary film, "Lyn Lifshin: Not Made of Glass," was called "an extraordinary profile of a unique feminist," by Booklist and Mary McCarthy declared, "for it's passionate defense of poetry and the written word...should be required viewing in every school in America." Her work has been included in virtually every major anthology of recent writing by women including, recently, DICK FOR A DAY, UNSETTLING AMERICA, LEGACIES, MOTHER SONGS, HER FACE IN THE MIRROR, POETS AT WORK, NEW TO NORTH AMERICA, THE HOLOCAUST, IDENTITY LESSONS.
COLD COMFORT, Lifshin's more recent work from Black Sparrow, has been called "a wonderful work...you can not escape the emotion that falls from these poems" by (Articulate Contemporary Art Review.) "The most published poet in the world today, Lifshin shows here (in COLD COMFORT) what many literary magazine editors have known for decades: she's a poet of substance, range and invention." (Small Press Review) Other recent books by Lifshin include BLUE TATTOO, MARILYN MONROE, and NOT MADE OF GLASS. Writers as diverse as Robert Frost, Ken Kesey, Richard Eberhart, and Ed Sanders have praised her work.
Her intense poems reflect a range of emotions and subjects and touch readers because they suddenly realize that feelings they previously thought to be theirs alone are shared. Winner of many awards including a Bread Loaf Fellowship, The Jack Kerouac Award and New York State Caps Grant, she gives readings, talks and workshops, often based on the books she has edited or exhibits in museums, around the country and has been poet in residence at many colleges, libraries and centers.
"...as always, Lifshin's poetry trawls deep waters of submerged passion beneath the surface of everyday life, coming up with a teeming, glistening catch..."
"Magnificently crafted poems, terse as needlework"
The direct, spare, largely autobiographical poems in this generous new collection evoke memories of an unlovely girlhood ("longing to be what every man/ would take the gum out of his mouth to whistle for"); a stormy marriage ("each separation I lost/ 10 pounds"); self-unsparing love affairs ("we were/ like drunks, dying/ a little more/ every time"); the pain of losing a mother ("holding her while/ she moans my hands are/ cold, my hair a whip"). The struggle to regain self-sufficiency after bad relationships ("some of/ us need to regrow claws, survive/ on prey, give up safeness").
In poems exploring "the delights and pains of human relationships..as shrewd as they are poignant" (Bill Katz, Library Journal) these poems are intense, startling, playful and often surprising and humorous. Well known for her love poems and mother and daughter poems, erotica and for her poems written in the masks of Barbie, mad girls, Marilyn, Vietnam veterans and Holocaust survivors, this collection contains many new never published poems. What has been called her "unfailing poetic eye and consummate lyrical skill" is clearly evident in this collection, as well as the musicality of her poems that "come on like a stack of Cannonball Adderly records - blowing cool, blowing hot, sometimes lyrical and sweet, sometimes hard bop, terse and touch." (December magazine) From her poems of place that "evoke in fantasy, but with a lot of anthropological detail..."(New York Book Review) to poems that "flash into emotional significance in (her) inimitable way" (Ms. Magazine) "Lyn Lifshin wakes them up." (The Washington Post)
I have been infatuated with you from the first "lyn lifshin" poem I read--in an anthology called Psyche. So fresh, so funny, so sexy. It was like wandering the labyrinth of Crete and finding a lightbulb hanging at the end of a drop cord from an outlet in the ceiling. Before that, I'd been reading Louis Simpson and TS Eliot and Yeats to the point of memorizing them. Putting out these two books has meant a great deal to me. - A Reader (the two books referred to are BALLROOM and A NEW FILM ABOUT THE WOMAN IN LOVE WITH THE DEAD. ed.)