A bold and strikingly original new work from one of America's greatest living poets
Alice Notley is considered by many to be among the most outstanding of living American poets. Notley's work has always been highly narrative, and her new book mixes short lyrics with long, expansive lines of poetry that often take the form of prose sentences, in an effort "to change writing completely." The title piece, a folksong-like lament, makes a unified tale out of many stories of many people; the middle section, "The Black Trailor," is a compilation of noir fictions and reflections; while the shorter poems of "Hemostatic" range from tough lyrics to sung dramas. Full of curative power, music, and the possibility of transformation, In the Pines is a genre- bending book from one of our most innovative writers.
Notley's recognizable subjectsamong them personal losses, the malfeasance of politicians, gender inequality, the failings of languagearen't particularly new or surprising, for her or anyone else. The radical freshness of her poems stems not from what they talk about, but how they talk, in a stream-of-consciousness style that both describes and dramatizes the movement of the poet's restless mind, leaping associatively from one idea or sound to the next without any irritable reaching after reason or plot. Each turn Notley takes seems to make its own kind of sense, though after a few sentences you're not sure where you are, how you got there or how you might get back…it's easy to trust Notley's voice; in fact it's a great pleasure. Her tonewry but never sour, generous but never sappy, politically committed but never didacticacts as a steady and stabilizing current beneath the nervous surfaces of her poems, and allows her to say whatever comes into her head without the results ever quite seeming random.