Here you have a selection of the review essays Priscilla has written over the years.
Anne Carson’s seventh book, The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos is a poem about an erotic relationship that proceeds from adolescent fixation to post-divorce continuing fixation. Carson is a classical scholar as well as a poet, and her intense and synthesizing erudition, here brought to bear on the subject of desire, is partly what makes her such a thrilling read. She moves easily from Duchamp to Degas to Demeter, the mythical mother who, like the mother here, is dead set against her daughter’s disastrous fling with Hades. In… Continue reading
This review of Working the Garden: American Writers and the Industrialization of Agriculture by William Conlogue appeared in Technology and Culture Vo. 44, No. 2 (2003), 421-422.
During the past century, American food production has undergone a radical transformation as the family farm has given way to industrial agriculture – to farm as factory. Working in the Garden walks the reader through the transformation – and its technological, social, philosophical, and ecological effects — by comparing historical actualities with visions of industrial agriculture in novels such as Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres. William Conlogue argues that our national literature has both envisioned industrial agriculture and provided metaphorical hand grenades in battles and social upheavals accompanying its ascendancy.
Conlogue is no Luddite, but… Continue reading
This review of The Lives of the Saints by Suzanne Paola appeared in The Women’s Review of Books Vol. 20, No. 12 (September 2003), 11.
Suzanne Paola’s grim, visionary third book of poems speaks in multiple voices about morality, faith, nature, human nature, and science in the age of the Human Genome Project. The characters (these are mostly persona poems) range from the medieval anorexic St. Catherine of Siena to Patient No. 6, victim of the 1940s Human Radiation Experiment in which scientists at the University of Rochester injected uranium into human subjects to investigate the results. In The Lives of the Saints, sacrifice is what binds the medieval world of the old saints to the Atomic Age. Images flash strobe-like from religious to scientific, from “Jerome/turning restlessly on… Continue reading
By Priscilla Long
This review of I Can’t Remember by Cynthia Macdonald appeared in The Women’s Review of Books, Vol. 15, No. 7 (April 1998), p. 7.
The poems in Cynthia Macdonald’s disturbing, brilliant sixth book, I Can’t Remember, constitute acts of remembering. The poems remember what has been forgotten, repressed, put away. They remember – possibly they inflict – the traumas of childhood and of history, and they do so with concrete images and unsettling immediacy.
A father is lost, not because he has been “screwing around” as we might say, but because “Daddy had been slipping/ his slick, rubber-bound prick into too many others.” The Nazi genocide is depicted, not as the generalized Holocaust, but as one Jew who “smells barbecue/from next door: family burning.”… Continue reading
By Priscilla Long
This review of The Life of Poetry by Muriel Rukeyser appeared in The Women’s Review of Books, Vol 14, No. 5 (February 1997).
The life of poetry, which Muriel Rukeyser first published in 1949, is a profoundly important book, and not only because Rukeyser was, as Jane Cooper puts it in her fine introduction, “One of the great, necessary poets of our country and century.” These essays speak about what poetry requires of poet and reader alike: a fully engaged imagination, the deepest possible connection to feeling, a willingness to attend to meanings, to engage with symbol and myth. “A poem does invite, it does require,” Rukeyser writes. “What does it invite? A poem invites you to feel. More than that: it invites you to respond.… Continue reading