GREEN AGE
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989
 
 
 
 
In this selection of poems from thirty years of a distinguished writing career, we see the growth of a poet's mind, heart, and spirit as Ostriker struggles to love "This wounded/ World that we cannot heal, that is our bride." Whether she probes the meaning of childhood, family, marriage and motherhood, or art, history, politics, and God; whether she is celebrating sexuality or confronting mortality, the poet includes "whatever I can grasp of human experience within my art--the good and beautiful, the evil and chaotic. I tell my students that they must write what they are afraid to write; and I attempt to do that myself."
Alicia Ostriker is that rare combination, a writer equally admired as poet and as critic. The variety of subjects in Green Age is characteristic of her writing: from the opening poem, "Fifty," funny, courageous and defiant, to emulations of the persian mystic Rumi, to the provocative "Meditation in Seven Days," whose central assumption is that we may find in the Bible traces of a Canaanite goddess whose worship was forbidden with the advent of patriarchal monotheism. But if her subjects may seem formidable, her poems are not. Ostriker is accessible, witty, daring and humane.
 
 
Ostriker explores the eroticism implicit in all relationships... her poems read like passionate letters to a familiar you, utterly specific, yet tantalizingly mysterious.

--Robyn Selman, Village Voice
 
 

Ostriker leaps into her subjects with bristling intelligence, fierce humanity, and wit.....Ostriker's charge in these poems is to explode boundaries that are both universal--death, the limitations of love and altruism--and gender-determined--the restrictions of the patriarchal world. Ever aware of history, the poems range from mother-love, for her child and her students, to the sad, crazy energy of urban life, and open out into a broad, ambitious, unsparing yet lyric meditation on her own Jewishness.

--X.J. Kennedy, Poetry
 
 

In Writing Like a Woman, [Ostriker] discusses the reasons why women commonly take myths as a theme. "In addition to literary ambition and the need to say something intimate about herself, the poem is a great key she is dangling. She will fling the door open. Something will rush from the cell, feeling daylight on its face for the first time in centuries." This is, of course, exactly what she does in "A Meditation in Seven Days," even using the same concluding metaphor. In the final section of the poem, the speaker enters God's mind by opening a door into his nightmare:

He begins to snore, he is dreaming again
How outside the door a barefoot woman is knocking...

Don't come back, he whispers in his sleep
Like a man who endures a nightmare...

Fearful, I see my hand is on the latch
I am the woman, and about to enter

Like all myth, [this poem] continues to live and change, to "release imprisoned meanings," to find in itself "the lines of another story."

--Biff Russ, New Letters Review of Books


Table of Contents

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Poem selections:

Fifty
What can I possess
Move