Finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s 1999 Poetry Book of the Year
A reader and a writer don their respective roles and embark on the journey of a book. This is their story–ultimately a love story–darkly funny, mournful, testy. It is about a reader who at times presides over the page like a god, and at others follows the leash of the author's voice through the dark streets of the book like a dog, and it is about a writer of determined slipperiness. As we read, we think that each of us is The Reader, the one who knows the Real Story. But the more we think we understand, the more the story moves away from us—all is not what it seems.
This eagerly awaited third volume by the poet whose work The New York Times described as “at once charmed and frightening” is a book of high-spirited subversiveness, a work of argument, seduction, and a relentless devotion to language. Then, Suddenly— bristles with the sound of the author's voice–insistent, vital, hilarious, and iconoclastic–tearing away at the confinement of the page and at the distance between the page and the reader. Emanuel's images are dazzling. She creates a performance that is fearsome and funny in its portrayal of the argument between the work of the text and the world of the body. The Gettsyburg Review has called her a writer of “exquisite craftsmanship” who can “strike from language . . . images chiseled clean as bas-relief.” Then, Suddenly— is a book of spectacle and verve, part elegy, part vaudeville.
The trajectory of Lynn Emanuel's dazzling career has been in the direction of self-consciousness; Then, Suddenly— questions even further the relationship between writer and reader: a tango, a coupling, a gamble in which the author seems to hold all the cards. But not so fast, say the dead, who confound and complicate her intent; Not so fast, says time. Or faster, haunting these sophisticated, deeply knowing poems into troubled life.
There is some Eliot here, some Stein. Emanuel carries self-consciousness to the shrieking edge—and almost falls in. Well, she does fall in. She is a master of the negative, but she doesn't sigh in boredom; she yells in pain. Her vision is original; so is her language. A terrific book!
A determined, smart-alecky poet eyes her reader constantly through this cranky, quirky, third collection, sizing us up . . . she nevertheless varies her lines and her forms adroitly; piles on gorgeous images [and] celebrates masters and mentors.
Lynn Emanuel is the 'beautiful nakedness' seeking the 'beautiful dress' of the voice; then suddenly—- she inhabits the very moment.
The poems in Then, Suddenly— require a reader's willingness to connect the dots of voice and story, and to watch oneself connect the dots, but Emanuel makes the willingness surprisingly easy to give. She may eschew feeling, but in this she is somewhat ingenuous, rewarding her reader's attentions throughout with vivid, indeed "moving" metaphors.
Lynn Emanuel's agile poems in Then Suddenly— are often about the construction of self in language, and, indeed, the act of writing poetry itself. Thier sustained reflexivity, verbal inventiveness and associative wittiness connect her work to the New York School of John Ashbery and Kenneth Koch, and through them, to the great Modernist precursor, Gertrude Stein.
Lynn Emanuel has become quite a celebrity, considering that she's a poet, subject of magazine articles, sought out for interviews. It's rare enough that she's a brilliant, innovative poet who's also a pleasure to read; rarer still, she's a poet who seems to have found a stiking new path for her work at mid-career.
Lynn Emanuel crooks her finger and pulls you right into this new book of poetry. . . . Emanuel establishes an intimacy between text and reader in a forthright manner but not without some criticism of the work as too self-conscious. . . . This is not the easiest collection to keep step with; but do go in there, Reader, and dance around. You'll ache in the end with sweet anticipation.
Emanuel's poems are full of intellectual vigor, desire and self; they acknowledge the body and the shared life. What Emanuel has made, in her fanatically neat way, is a big, interesting mess, full of creative contradiction, and that is one of the best functions of a poet.
Lynn Emanuel is the author of four previous books of poetry: Hotel Fiesta, The Dig, Then, Suddenly–, and, most recently, Noose and Hook. Her work has been featured in The Pushcart Prize Anthology and The Best American Poetry numerous times and is included in The Oxford Book of American Poetry. She is the recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Poetry Series Award, the Eric Matthieu King Award from the Academy of American Poets, and, most recently, a fellowship from the Ranieri Foundation.learn more