Maxine Chernoff: Without
Published 15 January 2012
Paperback, 80pp, 8.5x5.5ins, £8.95 / $15
Download a sample PDF from this book here.
The series of poems in Maxine Chernoff's Without are elegiac brushstrokes, each somewhat feathery and brushing in more than one direction, which creates tension and unexpected arrivals as well as departures: someone or something is missing. Parts of the world are wavering and parts have disappeared. What remains is treated in the subtle management of the lines without a hint of punctuation, which allows for "waves" of attention, as meaning rises and subsides. The emotional impact is powerful, as are the recognitions, such as "when darkness loses / its waiting mirror / and tuning forks / stand in for solace" and "readers asleep /mouthing their dreams / fears of whispering / become a creed / until life blurs / like any lens /that fails at attention." There's a sense of meaning passing with the solidity and darkness of time.
"The poems of Without pierce. Maxine Chernoff takes away all excess, takes away our protective flesh, to lay bare a skeletal, strange, and frighteningly beautiful poetry that 'teeters on absence.' Even as the sharp punchlines of experience threaten our frail humanity, these dystopian lyrics clothe us anew in 'an architecture/in place of grace' where we can redouble our efforts to loft above loss, lit with 'what light/calls itself when it enters a room/full of sorrows.' —Elizabeth Robinson
The protagonist of these fifty brilliantly condensed elliptical poems, never feels sorry for herself: she knows only too well that "no currency / buys your/erasure. And she can even smile at the thought that "maybe you'll freeze/trying to forget/how things were/before they weren't. . . . Indeed, one thing Maxine Chernoff is never without is an unfailing tact—a dazzling inventiveness that distances the pain and transforms it into verbal pleasure. As in Emily Dickinson's lyric, 'After great pain a formal feeling comes.' —Marjorie Perloff
Maxine Chernoff has become such a necessary presence in contemporary poetry—as editor, as teacher, as translator—that this new book of poems is shocking for its freshness, originality, and its essential engagement with absence. A book entitled Without certainly is aware of the power of erasure and fragmentation, but "how things were / before they weren't" is also one of the open secrets this book lets us in on. The presence within absence, or as she writes late in the book: "I would whisper / to create no sound / you know the words / you say them you." Without invites us to co-create the presence, the poems. —Bin Ramke
UK trade orders via Bertrams Books or Gardners Books.
US trade orders via Ingrams or Baker & Taylor.
Please support your local bookshop by ordering Shearsman titles from them. If you prefer to order online, use the following links:
Order from the Shearsman online store
Order from amazon.co.uk
Order from The Book Depository
Order from amazon.com
Order from Barnes and Noble.com (USA)
Order from Small Press Distribution (USA)