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Loose Sugar (Wesleyan Poetry) [Paperback]

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Retail Value $ 16.95  
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Item Number 93688  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   127
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.25" Width: 6.25" Height: 9"
Weight:   0.45 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 31, 1997
Publisher   Wesleyan
ISBN  0819522430  
EAN  9780819522436  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Loose Sugar is an alchemical manuscript disguised as a collection of poems, or vice versa. Either way, the primal materials of which this book is comprised -- love, sex, adolescence, space-time, depression, post-colonialism, and sugar -- are movingly and mysteriously transmuted: not into gold, but into a poet's philosopher's stone, in which language marries life.

Structurally virtuosic, elaborate without being ornate, Loose Sugar is spun into series within series: each of the five sections has a dual heading (such as "space / time" or "time / work") in which the terms are neither in collision nor collusion, but in conversation. It's elemental sweet talk, and is Brenda Hillman's most experimental work to date, culminating in a meditation on the possibility of a native -- and feminine -- language.

Loose Sugar, Brenda Hillman's fifth and most ambitious collection, was nominated for the 1998 National Book Critics' Circle Award in poetry. The strength of this book is suggested by its title; the book's language is perilous and demanding and scattered, forcing the reader to grasp at words and images that are tossed off with a deceptive pulp lyricism. Her titles appeal: "Stuck Tram," "Red Fingernails," and "Cheap Gas." The latter, with its playful sonic booms, illustrates this appeal:
That dithyramb of ticky-tick, boom,
brrrrr we hear when we lift
the nozzle, pull back on the black rubber
and shove it in--
Hillman's unique gift is her ability to incorporate a spontaneous response to what's happening in the world around her while she's making the poem; the rare capacity to allow chance to enter and, in the process, to subvert the idea of the poem as self-enclosed object. The abrupt entrances and exits of her images are reminiscent of poets such as Emily Dickinson and D. H. Lawrence (she has her poem "The Bat" and Lawrence has his).

Loose Sugar is more self-consciously experimental than her four previous books. The poems manage to be off-center without being centerless, and, with deft phrasing, Hillman forces attention to constant shifts and degrees of meaning, paralleling her fascination with spheres of rapid transformation. The titled sections such as "time/alchemy" and "problem/time" belie the charm of the poems they contain, including the wonderful "Time Problem":

My girl came to the study
and said Help me;
I told her I had a time problem
which meant:
I would die for you but I don't have ten minutes.
Numbers hung in the math book
like motel coat hangers. The Lean
Cuisine was burning
like an ancient city: black at the edges,
bubbly earth tones in the center.
While the sacred in Loose Sugar makes its appearance through debased contexts, Hillman does not give up on the possibility of transcendence. These poems are more jagged and associative than those in her previous volumes. Hillman won't be persuaded that the sublime can't be teased out of the ridiculous.

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More About Brenda Hillman

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! BRENDA HILLMAN began writing poetry when she was a child in Tucson. She is the author of Coffee, 3 A.M. (1982), and two other books of poetry published by Wesleyan University Press, White Dress (1985) and Fortress (1989). Her work has won the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award for Poetry, the Poetry Society of America's Norma Farber First Book Prize, an NEA fellowship, the Silver Medal for Poetry from the Commonwealth Club, and the Jerome Shestack Prize for best poems published in American Poetry Review. She lives in Kensington, California, and teaches at St. Mary's College of California in Moraga.

Brenda Hillman teaches writing at St. Mary's College in Moraga, CA. Her other books, all published by Wesleyan, include Cascadia (2001), Loose Sugar (1997), Death Tractates (1992), and Bright Existence (1992).

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > General   [19247  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Bravo Work By a Master  Jun 6, 2001
Brenda Hillman is proving herself a master of that tenuous field between mainstream and Language poetry. While not her best work, Loose Sugar is a wild and consistent ride!
Loose Sugar  Dec 17, 2000
While this may start out for many as a scholarly work, it ended up for me to be a next-to-the-bedside book, something to touch base with in the day-to-day, which is where Brenda Hillman lives much of the time. How about picking it up randomly to read: (my apologies that I cannot make these poems appear as they do on the page, which is very important to Ms. Hillman's work -- the ruidmentary text editor used for these reviews doesn't allow me to enter the proper linebreaks).

Very Busy

--- Everyone talked about how much/ busier they were. Friends/ became the type/ that could work on a poem while driving . . .//

. . . Or/ maybe you could read less. The novels/ wouldn't mind. . . .

In many of her poems, there seem to be leftover words that, while they didn't fit in the poem, couldn't be discarded and are therefore left at the bottom of the page. After, for example, Symmetry Breaking, which starts with

Poking at the airplane meal. . . .

ends up, at the bottom of the page, with:

would you like the/ Chicken Kiev or the/ Lasagna

She is so much with the world, and not of it!

This book is one that now, three years after its publication, still seems brand-spanking new, and I think it might for a very long time. I know I'm always cheered up having the book nearby.

A Waitress of Fire  Aug 4, 2000
One thing about B. Hillman--her "open" poetry doesn't seem as calculated and easy as many other poets. It seems that she arrives upon the difficulty of her poems honestly--i.e., this is the only way I can articulate this, as opposed to: I could say this much easier, but then I wouldn't be hip. "Nipples" is a great poem. I love how Hillman can raise the everyday (Lean Cuisine) to the sublime. If you're interested in the more experimental bends of contemporary poetry, this would be a good volume--a subtext is still apparent beneath the fractured surface. This is more modern than post-modern: a good thing.

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