THE CRACK IN EVERYTHING

University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996.

 

 

Finalist for the National Book Award.  Received the Paterson Poetry Prize and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award.


Exquisitely ordered, the book teeters between poems of the outer and inner worlds, held up by two sequences, "The Book of Life" and "The Mastectomy Poems," that take for their subject personal encounters with cancer. It is clear that this will be a volume that engages the terrors of illness and the inevitability of death, our own and others', but with a tether in the live world always.

--Janet Holmes, Hungry Mind Review



Alicia Ostriker has pondered the elusive meaning of sexuality, the looming catastrophes of marriage, the ongoing atavistic bloodshed of history. In all of her books she has held sons, daughters and husband, sanity and justice, beauty and God, in a precarious balance between disenchantment and epiphany.

--Harold Schweizer, Literature and Medicine



By far the most breathtaking poem in the entire collection is "The Eighth and Thirteenth"....If Adorno said one shouldn't write poetry after the holocaust, then this poem proves that a poet of Ostriker's strengths can and should write poems about the Holocaust. Ostriker, caught by happenstance listening to Shostokovich's Eighth "on public radio," has written a poem that avalanches down the page.....a collage of voices in place of the silenced.

--Sharon Dolin, American Book Review



The Crack in Everything: Is it a shift in the earth's tectonic plates, the purposeful Zen flaw in a ceramic vase that individualizes its perfection, the long pink keoid ridge on a newly flat chest? All of the above.... [The book] reaffirms the poet's unique and contradictory role, at once storyteller and witness, s/he who makes of language not a prison but a prism, refracting and re-combining the spectum of human possibilities.

--Marilyn Hacker, The Nation


Ostriker writes from a level of awareness that is both heartbreaking and healing, precisely because it encompasses so much loss....One of Ostriker's greatest strengths as poet has always been the lack of separation between self and world in her work. Immediate, passionate and direct, even the more public poems in this collection possess an intimacy that startles the reader...In poems like "The Russian Army Goes into Baku" and "The Eighth and Thirteenth" she looks at cruelty and violence with a fierce and unblinking eye.

--Alison Townsend, Women's Review of Books


The Crack in Everything contains a marvelous interpretation of the origins of poet May Swenson's particularity and curiosity, and an homage to painter Alice Neel which uses words the way Neel used flesh and colors....What is most impressive about this volume is the poet's range, not only of subject matter but tone. Ostriker is as comfortable writing about Babi Yar (if comfortable could be the word!) as she is cracking Jewish jokes....She also creates unforgettable similes and metaphors....Ostriker deserves a wider reputation as one of our finest poets.

--Robert Phillips, Hudson Review


Table of Contents
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Poem selections: pp 3, 29-31, 85