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The Cradle of the Real Life (Wesleyan Poetry)

Jean Valentine


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A poet speaks of the deaths and births that come within a life: alcoholism, womanhood, depression, marriage, motherhood, psychotherapy, sex, poetry.

In Jean Valentine's first book, her poems transformed dreams into living experience by means of luminous language that echoed the unconscious mind's revelations. In her later books, she almost reverses this process to show life as veiled and inconclusive, suggestive rather than definitive. The elliptical yet lucid craft of her poems presents experience as only imperfectly graspable. The poems ride lightly on the waves of thought, more textures than statements. Some readers have characterized Valentine as a "deep image" writer, but syntactically her work is more akin to the work of Mandelstam and Paul Celan than to that of Lorca and Neruda.

The Cradle of the Real Life is divided into two sections, the shorter first section dealing with loss and death and the longer second section, entitled "Her Lost Book," which weaves memories with various metaphors for writing, and deals specifically with the "problem" of women's writing. These finely wrought pieces take stark subject matter and make it shimmer; the poems take their shape as much from the absences as from the words, just as life is given meaning by the losses we survive.

Wesleyan University Press, 9780819564061, 85pp.

Publication Date: April 14, 2000

About the Author

JEAN VALENTINE won the Yale Younger Poets Award for her first book, Dream Barker, in 1965. Author of seven other books of poetry, including most recently Growing Darkness, Growing Light (1997) and The River at Wolf (1992), she has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the Graduate Writing Program at NYU, and the 92nd Street Y. Valentine received the Shelley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America in 2000 and the 2006 Morton Dauwen Zabel Award given by the American of Letters to "a progressive, original, and experimental writer."