One of our strongest poets of conscience confronts the dangerous new century with intelligence, urbanity, and elegiac humor.Marilyn Hacker's voice is unique in its intelligence, urbanity, its deployment of an elegiac humor, its weaving of literary sources into the fabric and vocabulary of ordinary life, its archaeology of memory. Desesperanto refines the themes of loss, exile, and return that have consistently informed her work. The title itself is a wordplay combining the Spanish word esperanto, signifying "hope," and the French desespoir, meaning "to lose heart." Des-esperanto, then, is a universal language of despair ―despair of the possibility of a universal language. As always in Hacker's poetry, prosodic measure is a catalyst for profound feeling and accurate thought, and she employs it with a wit and brio that at once stem from and counteract despair. Guillaume Apollinaire, June Jordan, and Joseph Roth are among this book's tutelary spirits, to whom the poet pays homage as she confronts a new, dangerous century.
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Marilyn Hacker is the recipient of the National Book Award, the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, the Robert Fagles Translation Prize, and the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. Her collection Winter Numbers received a Lambda Literary Award and the Lenore Marshall Award of the Academy of American Poets. She lives in Paris, France.From Publishers Weekly:
Combining lucid, almost chatty autobiography, outspoken progressive politics and a casual mastery of elaborate forms, Hacker's work has won admiration for poems about city life, and (more recently) for translations of Francophone poets. All those skills receive a renewed airing in this confident 10th collection, which opens with an elegy to June Jordan and closes with elegiac sonnets, blank verse, a ghazal and even a canzone. Hacker's title fuses "despair" and Esperanto, and her book in some sense tries for both. Included are a chain of informative sonnets depicting Parisian streets and scenes: "Rue Beaurepaire" considers the "retired mail clerks, philoprogenitive/ Chinese textiles workers, Tunisian grocers" who keep a drug users' clinic from opening, while "Troiseme Sans Ascenceur" starts from "A square of sunlight on the study wall." Where other Anglos in Paris see the sights, Hacker celebrates everyday life in a multicultural, multiracial city, in poems that can read like a personalized travel guide. Freestanding, and perhaps deeper, poems comprise the volume's third section, mixing personal and public grief: angry about the warlike state of the U.S.-led world, Hacker tries hard to "Call the plumber again./ Remember how to think"; writes multiple poems to her ill friend, the poet Hayden Carruth; asks "Is it luck/ no one gets her old life back?"; investigates the ontology of migraine headaches; and searches for "something clearer about pain." If that clearer thing doesn't quite emerge here, the search remains a starting point.
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