NO HEAVEN

University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005

 

In No Heaven, Ostriker’s eleventh collection, she takes a hint from John Lennon’s “Imagine” to wrestle with the world as it is: “no hell below us,/ above us only sky.” It is a world of cities, including New York, London, Jerusalem, and Berlin, where the poet can celebrate pickup basketball, peace marches, and the energy of graffiti. It is also a world of families, generations coming and going, of love, love affairs, and friendship. Then it is a world full of art and music, of Rembrandt and Bonnard, Mozart and Brahms. Finally, it is a world haunted by violence and war. No Heaven rises to a climax with elegies for Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated by an Israeli zealot, and for the poet's mother, whose death is experienced in the context of a post-9/11 impulse to destroy that seems to seduce whole nations. Yet Ostriker's ultimate stance is to "Try to praise the mutilated world," as the poet Adam Zagajewski has counseled. At times lyric, at times satiric, Ostriker steadfastly pursues in No Heaven her poetics of ardor, a passion for the here and now.


"As attentive to injustice as it is to the varieties of the sensual life, No Heaven is evidence of a deep engagement with what it means and feels like to be a person of high consciousness in the early twenty-first century. This is a lover’s book; that is, a book by someone who loves people enough to show all their sides, and the world enough to be furious with it. It gives us Ostriker at her most capacious."—Stephen Dunn

"No Heaven is Ostriker at her best. The elegiac poems that sing to her dead mother and characterize an eroding America as ‘this moon-shaped blankness’ are deeply compelling."—Maxine Kumin

"In No Heaven Alicia Ostriker is at the top of her form. The poems ‘hang in the air like Nijinsky taking a nap’—no need of heaven when the living can perform such feats."—Diane Middlebrook

“With the vision and compassion of the poet, Ostriker not only shares a glimpse of a “stolen past” in a Berlin museum, the gnawing emptiness following her mother’s death and the continued government - and religious - bred violence coursing throughout the world, but she also gives an answer. Life indeed may offer no heaven.”—Home News Tribune, 2/8/05

“Edgy, erotic, funny, and ornery. . . .Ostriker’s tonic poems remind us that although we are the animal that kills out of rage and greed, we are also creatures of grace and harmony.” --Donna Seaman, Booklist, April 15, 2005


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University of Pittsburgh Press