Winner of the 1996 Lambda Book Award for Lesbian Poetry.
“With poignancy, honesty, and grace, Becker contends with the messy implications of her lesbian sexuality, Jewish identity, and sister's suicide. . . . Becker is acutely aware of, and devastated by, her many losses, but emerges defiant and admirably without regret or shame.”
Gathered at the edge of each poem in Robin Becker's fourth collection, palpable and terrible, wait the forces of chaos. Love affairs end, families dissolve, the kingdoms of childhood are lost. All-American Girl, despite it insouciant title, is a sad book recounting a life fully adult and aware of human limits. As a lesbian and a Jew, Becker claims a history of expulsion and isolation. What is astonishing in these poems is how the author uses irony and humor-abundant in imagery as well as tone-to define rather than distance herself from such knowledge.
Robin Becker's poems in her Lambda Book Award winner, rove ther terrain of loss and grief: the streets of childhood in Philadelphia where she courts other women against the backdrop of our country's Founding Fathers; the arid deserts of the Soutwest where she examines her childless, often partnerless existence; and the romatic tapestry of Italy where she struggles as an outsider to make a life with other women work comfortably on her terms.
It is Becker's undefendedness that makes this collection so strong and appealing. Whether acknowledging childhood privilege. . . or admitting her part in creating her own destiny. . . Becker's direct, fluidly accessible lyric narratives move assuredly through even the most complex emotional terrain, living with the questions, letting us know that we are with a speaker we can trust.
The poet travels the literal and figurative worlds wryly and seriously, redefining what this—an 'all-American girl'—and other descriptive tags might mean. . . . Becker transforms suicide, faithlessness, fear of commitment, and loss and sorrow into a series of poems which themselves become a sort of antidote, a source of light. One of the most satisfying aspects of Becker's poems is the simultaneous evocation of love and its seemingly imminent loss. Her work lives on this precipice, reinvented from experience and keen feeling, into powerful free and formal verse. . . . Robin Becker is a poet of substance and accomplishment. She sings of life in a manner that is accessible and resonant. Although many people might be quick to label her a 'lesbian' poet, with all the attendant limitation or glory, All-American Girl is a book which belongs to us all, especially in those hours when we most need the tough, true words which poets labor over a lifetime to bring us.
Robin Becker's poetry is wise with the consolations and disconsolations of experience. At once poignant, sinewy, and honest, these lyric narratives take exile to heart and to task. The poet-speaker is unsparing in her self-appraisals, and this fine toughmindedness gives the work its gutsiness and edge. All-American Girl is a book of frontiers, in every sense.
Robin Becker received the Lambda Award in Poetry for All-American Girl and has held fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard. Her books include Tiger Heron, Domain of Perfect Affection, The Horse Fair, and GiacomettiÕs Dog. Professor Emeritus of English and WomenÕs Studies at Penn State, Becker serves as poetry and contributing editor for the WomenÕs Review of Books.learn more