by Wendy Wisner

Poetry Roundup

The twelfth book of poems from Alicia Ostriker, The Book of Seventy (University of Pittsburgh Press, $14.95), written as Ostriker enters her seventieth year, showcases the wisdom she has gained as both a poet and a person: “I have less / interfering with my gaze now / what I see I see clearly.” She has arrived in her body and mind, and the poems feel like offerings to those of us journeying to reach this place. Ostriker celebrates decades of a marriage that only gets better with age. In “The Married Man” she writes: “He kissed and kissed me like an animal / I kissed and kissed him like the other half / of that animal.” In the middle sections, Ostriker speaks through the voices of Persephone, Artemis, and Lord Krishna, among others. These poems ruminate about childhood, motherhood, spirituality, and culture. Ostriker’s gift is that she can be both fiercely feminist and tender in the same breath. She ends the book with poems about the state of the world, tackling war and torture. In “Listening to Public Radio” Ostriker compares today’s world to the world when fascism reigned, explaining: “but nobody could stop it / or not enough people wished to stop it / so nature took its course / the book of Job came true / the millions and the millions disappeared.” Although Ostriker expresses a sense of foreboding about the world and its future, she seizes moments to celebrate life, ending the book with images of spring: “the birch trees close their eyes in the rain / and robins drink their bliss.”

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