From Library Journal
Thirty years worth of poems that celebrate the "mystery of the ordinary," this collection conveys, more than anything, the poignancy of time passing. Pastan, who was born in 1932, the same year as Sylvia Plath, presented readers with a different kind of female voice when her first book appeared in 1971?neither omnipotent nor disembodied but that of a real woman in a physical world: "She's crowning, someone says,/ but there is no one royal here,/ just me, quite barefoot,/ greeting my barefoot child." The early poems use a short line and eschew rhyme, while some of the later poems look to formal verse to confront the pressing concerns of mortality. When Pastan falters, she ends a poem too cleanly, unable to turn a prime moment for the writer into significance for the reader. But when she is on?as in the luminous title poem of this collection?she is a poet of small gestures and great vision. Author of nine previous books of poetry (e.g., An Early Afterlife, LJ 12/94) and former poet laureate of Maryland, Pastan has enjoyed a steady popular appeal. This volume may bring her work the critical attention it deserves.?Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York
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There is no fuss in Pastan's neat, trustworthy, and cardinal poems, no elusive imagery or eye-crossing syntax. This substantial volume draws on nine previous collections and presents an array of powerful new poems, and it is a deep pleasure to trace the path of Pastan's poetic exploration into the nature of a life lived determinedly within the family circle. Pastan works the puzzles of childhood, marriage, and motherhood with great skill and concentration, presenting domesticity as both a temple and a prison, and as much as she writes of love and duty, there is an undercurrent of protest, of resistance against tradition. Eve is her alter ego, and she writes about her regularly, imagining that she found Eden too confining, too orderly. As for herself, she writes in "Meditation by the Stove," "I have banked the fires of my body," then reminds us that "what we want/ is never simple." Neither are these self-contained poems: lift them to your ear like a shell and hear them roar. Donna Seaman