"There is no knack for grief," writes Wheeler (Assorted Poems), but her far-reaching experimentation suggests that—through language—she's seeking one. Three wild sequences struggling with loss comprise this volume: In "The Maud Poems," a daughter attempts to make sense of a mother's language rife with idioms and clichés by collaging stanzas of the poet's own lyric voice ("In the sepulcher where the mother lay/ at last some sleep to gain,/ Hannah helped me carve the oak/ into granite with her cane") between nagging bursts ("Don't come in here all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed expecting us to give you more"). The second sequence, "The Devil—or—The Introjects" remixes this vernacular with narrative in dense—sometimes opaque—units. The last is also the most stirring sequence: "The Split" recounts disaster that "doubles at the slightest slight" through slippery lines that reveal masterful dexterity without compromising meaning. "Such is the state of our poetry caught in my throat on its way/ to my mouth, why not do everything// but of course we do nothing" she writes. Wheeler's ambitious new book comes closer to doing everything—much closer—and we are left awed at Wheeler's audacity. (Oct.)
Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Susan Wheeler's narrative glamour finds occasions in unlikely places: hardware stores, Herodotus, Hollywood Squares, Flemish paintings, green stamps, and echoes of archaic and cyber speech. What at first seems cacophonous comes in the end to seem invested with a mournful dignity: that of 'the jangling discourse of our nation.' Ledger is a treasure map for those willing to understand the journey." - John Ashbery
A "project" book of poetry, interspersing Susan Wheeler's informal collages with poems
Susan Wheeler's second collection of poetry, with an afterword by U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass.
Assorted Poems is a generous selection from the first four books by one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary poetry. In Bag o’ Diamonds (1993), Smokes (1998), Source Codes (2001), and Ledger (2005), Susan Wheeler has established herself as a poet of rare gifts. Her work is allusive and searching, sweeping over time and place, from the art of the northern Renaissance to corporate logos, observing and exploring everything with characteristic precision and intelligence. The poems are both rigorous and free, taking on our culture, its beauties and cruelties, its relationship to the past and its uncertain future. Assorted Poems is a vibrantly thoughtful and entertaining book, a mustread from a poet whom Harold Bloom has called “an exuberant, subtle, endlessly inventive original.”
Record Palace is an astonishment. Susan Wheeler's deft touch and flawless ear have produced an irresistable work, both fresh and sage. - Toni Morrison