THE LITTLE SPACE: POEMS SELECTED AND NEW, 1968-1988.

University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988

Finalist for the national Book Award and the Lenore Marshall Prize of the Academy of American Poets. Listed among Best Books of 1998 by Charles Guenther, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "A major new collection by one of America's most gifted and sensitive poets."

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."


The title of this deeply moving collection is from a Blake epigram, "For we are put on earth a little space/ That we may learn to bear the beams of love." For Ostriker too, love and feeling must be endured and false comfort stripped, but this impulse remains at odds with the sheltering responsibilities of a poet as mother and teacher. Such enveloping contrasts--"The kernel of death/ life wraps itself around/ Like chamois cloth Around a diamond/ Ice/ Cold at the center"--are here made simultaneously funny and tragic, intense and conversational.

--Publisher's Weekly



"Now that Ginsberg is gone, Ostriker is contemporary poetry's most Blakean figure...in love with a wounded world, she wants us to heal it with the force of human imagination, compassion, and love....A wonderful book." --Diana Hume George, Women's Review of Books



Ostriker weaves the strands of feminist rage, post-Holocaust theology, historical ambivalence and spiritual longing into something more: a savagely reflexive, profoundly moving vision.

--Jay Ladin, Parnassus



Hers is a voice that boils over with the will to feel, to know, and to sing. The Little Space will entice many readers to the poems in her seven previous voumes.

--Doris Earnshaw, World Literature Today



Two things have always struck me most about Alicia Ostriker's writing, the terrific intimacy she establishes with the reader, a combination, I guess, of humor and vividness, and the fierceness of her mind, that splits things to the marrow, the pith of their nutritive human significance.

--Richard Silberg, Poetry Flash



Ostriker has an amazing knack for describing those bewildering moments when our assumptions crash to pieces against actual experience...The Little Space provides an excellent introduction to the work of America's most fiercely honest poet.

--Joel Brouwer, The Progressive



Many writers have followed in Ostriker's wake, but she was the pioneer.... Ostriker's poetry in The Little Space also ranges widely through the great topics addressed by many poets, but always with her signature edginess, lyricism, iconoclasm and startling vision.

--Libby Scheier, The Toronto Star


Table of Contents

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Poem selections: pp 220-21, 229