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April 2002
136 pages  

6 x 9
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The volcano sequence
Ostriker, Alicia Suskin
Bold, erotic, spiritual collection of poetry from a well-respected poet and critic, whose previous two books were both National Book Award finalists.
Alicia Suskin Ostriker is a major American poet and critic. She is the author of numerous poetry collections, including, most recently, The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog; The Book of Life: Selected Jewish Poems, 1979–2011; and The Book of Seventy, winner of the National Jewish Book Award. She has received the Paterson Poetry Prize, the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award, among other honors. Ostriker teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Drew University and is currently a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
“Alicia Ostriker’s the volcano sequence is a record of what one poem calls, ‘the tangled quarrel’ in her art, the quarrel with reality, the quarrel with our names for the ultimate, the quarrel with the pain and difficulty of a woman's life and women's life, and of birth, and age and death. Her voice is by turns bitter, lyrical, cajoling, ironic, her quarrel is a prophet’s quarrel with a divine presence, sometimes distant and male, sometimes close and female, sometimes refracted through ancient psalms and texts, and other times as present and near as the pain in a beggar's face. This is theology lived in the flesh, her struggle to be the ‘aperture,’ the voice and mouth of what is real.”—Rodger Kamenetz, author of The Missing Jew: New and Selected Poems

“It is impossible to decide whether these gorgeous poems are erotic or spiritual. They pour out from under Alicia Ostriker's scholarship on the Old Testament, but their inspiration is older than that, and newer than that—as if Ariadne had been reborn during World War II, reborn to write poems. This is a beautiful book, her finest work ever.” —Diane Middlebrook, author of Anne Sexton, A Biography

“Her writing is light and supple, the lines deceptively simple. But behind the everyday images, there’s a stunning depth of experience, passion and learning. ... As a psalmist of the intellect, the body and the spirit, she is without peer.”—Elaine Lindsay, Reviews-Women-Church 31, Spring 2002

the volcano sequence is one of the those poems the world of literature occasionally has the good fortune to receive which doesn't so much sum up a life, as embody it. Ostriker's spiritual consciousness is abundant, complex, she has many moral sympathies and many symbolic selves to enact her curiosities and compassion. Her ruminations and ethical queries range from the world of the bible, to India, classical Greece and most urgently to our own imperfect dominion, as it is lived in the mind and the body, in passion and despair. This is a poem with a voice of its own; it is a prayer to God, and a hymn of accusation for the lapses of divinity; it is a psalm of praise for the life of the flesh, and a mourning for life's fleetingness. Most importantly, Ostriker finds, and offers us, a heartening solace in the rigor of her regard.” —C. K. Williams

“Ostriker is our morning-after psalmist; our wild, justice-starved, embodied, dazzling intelligence in its unending argument with itself, the world, and God. And she is our latter-day Ariadne: hers the "red thread" of the living blood line-- entrails, tradition, umbilicus-- what tethers us to all our sources-- pulsing, torn and essential connection. And these poems, in their sustained, incremental power, deliver what our Biblical and poetic tradition failed to offer us: after great struggle, a daughter's at-onement with her mother.” —Eleanor Wilner

“This is a book written in white-hot passion, the kind of book that enters the writer perhaps once in a lifetime, and its synthesis of intellect and eros, historicism and contemporaneity, make it a major achievement. When Garbo went unannounced to visit Eric von Stroheim one afternoon, he said, ‘Greta! Please come in and never leave.’ After reading ‘the volcano sequence,’ you want to say, ‘Ostriker! Please write like this forever.’ ... In American spiritual poetry, there is nothing to match its sweep and power until you go back to Emily Dickinson writing in the 1860s. This is a book to be cherished, written about, argued over, read and reread for years.” —Women’s Review of Books

“ ... complex, original, and written with a truly literate and skilled economy of words. ‘the volcano sequence’ is a compilation of verse that fully showcases Ostriker a master poet in the full vigor of her imagination and wordsmithing talent.” —Midwest Book Review

“Every year, I try to recommend a book of poetry, and this year I’ve found a great one: Alicia Suskin Ostriker’s ‘the volcano sequence. A mature, philosophical, yet playful voice comes through in these tight poems . . .Intense and profound, these poems also dazzle with surprising imaginery. . .” —The Progressive

“Ostriker’s newest book is a medittion on what is held worthy of worship.” “Ostriker has unearthed ancient mysteries and cleaned them up with modern, precise and unadorned language.” —Charles Johnson, Home News Tribune (NJ), 3/31/02

What does American Jewish poetry sound like? At its best, it can sound like Alicia Suskin Ostriker . . . For the reader, who has come dangerously close to the volcano, who has followed through questions and answers, there is a sense of accomplishment, of breathing out, but also a feeling of pleasure, of having heard a series of difficult but beautiful songs.”—Aviya Kushner, Jerusalem Post, 12/13/02

“Ostriker, an essential voice in American letters, is on fire in her tenth volume of poetry, a wildly expressive dialogue with the God of the Old Testament. ... Ostriker witnesses births and watches her mother grow old in poems that are urgent, seamless, and searing, utterly thrilling in their forthrightness, soulfulness, and incandescence.”—Booklist, 3/1/02

“ ... rich and intense, rewarding and difficult, so full of life, and even death ... Her poems are her struggle, her wrestling with the difference between understanding and knowledge, between oving and forgiveness ...”—Esther Cohen, Na’Amat Woman, Summer 2002

Complete Description Reviews
Pitt Poetry Series Table of Contents
Poetry Read a selection from this book

Bold, erotic, spiritual collection of poetry from a well-respected poet and critic, whose previous two books were both National Book Award finalists.


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