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Tonight No Poetry Will Serve

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In the intimate address of "Axel Avákar," the black humor of "Quarto," and the underground journey of "Powers of Recuperation," compressed lyrics flash among larger scenarios where images, dialogues, blues, and song spiral into political visions. Adrienne Rich has said, "I believe almost everything I know, have come to understand, is somewhere in this book."from "Ballade In the intimate address of "Axel Avákar," the black humor of "Quarto," and the underground journey of "Powers of Recuperation," compressed lyrics flash among larger scenarios where images, dialogues, blues, and song spiral into political visions. Adrienne Rich has said, "I believe almost everything I know, have come to understand, is somewhere in this book."from "Ballade of the Poverties" There's the poverty of wages wired for the funeral you Can't get to the poverty of bodies lying unburiedThere's the poverty of labor offered silently on the curbThe poverty of yard sale scrapings spread And rejected the poverty of eviction, wedding bed out on streetPrince let me tell you who will never learn through wordsThere are poverties and there are poverties.


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In the intimate address of "Axel Avákar," the black humor of "Quarto," and the underground journey of "Powers of Recuperation," compressed lyrics flash among larger scenarios where images, dialogues, blues, and song spiral into political visions. Adrienne Rich has said, "I believe almost everything I know, have come to understand, is somewhere in this book."from "Ballade In the intimate address of "Axel Avákar," the black humor of "Quarto," and the underground journey of "Powers of Recuperation," compressed lyrics flash among larger scenarios where images, dialogues, blues, and song spiral into political visions. Adrienne Rich has said, "I believe almost everything I know, have come to understand, is somewhere in this book."from "Ballade of the Poverties" There's the poverty of wages wired for the funeral you Can't get to the poverty of bodies lying unburiedThere's the poverty of labor offered silently on the curbThe poverty of yard sale scrapings spread And rejected the poverty of eviction, wedding bed out on streetPrince let me tell you who will never learn through wordsThere are poverties and there are poverties.

59 review for Tonight No Poetry Will Serve

  1. 4 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    all new learning looks at first like chaos

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joy Cagil

    Tonight No Poetry Will Serve is a collection of poetry by Adrienne Rich in six parts with eight poems in the first part, five poems in the fourth, nine in the fifth and two in the sixty. Parts two and three have one poem each. The poems are written in free verse, through a web of varied voices, and dialogue. Unlike the full sentence in the title of the book, Adrienne Rich mostly thinks and feels in phrases, as in The Emergency Clinic, Iodinedark // poem walking to and fro all night // ungainly // Tonight No Poetry Will Serve is a collection of poetry by Adrienne Rich in six parts with eight poems in the first part, five poems in the fourth, nine in the fifth and two in the sixty. Parts two and three have one poem each. The poems are written in free verse, through a web of varied voices, and dialogue. Unlike the full sentence in the title of the book, Adrienne Rich mostly thinks and feels in phrases, as in The Emergency Clinic, “Iodine—dark // poem walking to and fro all night // un—gainly // unreconciled // unto and contra.” The sound and the connection of the words and phrases are there to impress the reader, ensuing conflicting points. The varied voices in the poems present an individuality while searching for something common yet ethical. The poem that lends its title to the book is personal and at the same time refers to war, possibly the Vietnam war, which had left an impression on the poet. In a good number of the poems, a reference to illness or hospitalization exists since this book was published two years before Adrienne Rich passed away, while in her eighties. In the section Axel Avakar, there’s a situation where two figures who were once close friends and read together are now separated. There is a feeling of betrayal by both, as they address each other through recorded message, missed dialogue, and lost opportunity. Some poems in the book are overtly political as in Domain “the congressman’s wife who wears nothing but green // tramples through unraked oak leaves yelling // to her strayed dogs Hey Rex! Hey Roy! // Husband in Washington: 1944” Others are more subtle as in Waiting for Rain, for Music. “…a notebook scribbled in // contraband calligraphy against the war // poetry wages against itself.” Fifth section’s Ballade of the Poverties is a list poem, listing poverties such as sickness, clinics, deathbeds, war, violence, etc. As such, in Circum/stances “All violence is not equal // I write this // with a clawed hand” and then, in Quarto, “No one writes lyric on a battlefield // On a map stuck with arrows // But I think I can do it if I just lurk…” All in all, these poems reflect, at times, an imaginative spirit who studies the world metaphorically[ and at times with a personal grief.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    The range of subjects is amazing. Tonight No Poetry Will Serve (excerpt from the poem in the volume) Saw you walking barefoot Taking a long look at the new moon's eyelid later spread sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair asleep but not oblivious of the unslept unsleeping elsewhere Tonight I think no poetry will serve Then, she also discusses illuminates socio/political issues, such as in "Ballad of the Poverties." There's the poverty of the cockroach kingdom and the rusted toilet bowl The poverty of The range of subjects is amazing. Tonight No Poetry Will Serve (excerpt from the poem in the volume) Saw you walking barefoot Taking a long look at the new moon's eyelid later spread sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair asleep but not oblivious of the unslept unsleeping elsewhere Tonight I think no poetry will serve Then, she also discusses illuminates socio/political issues, such as in "Ballad of the Poverties." There's the poverty of the cockroach kingdom and the rusted toilet bowl The poverty of to steal food for the first time The poverty of to mouth a penis for a paycheck....[gap here where I have not typed rather large sections] There are poverties and there are poverties... [gap here where I have not typed rather large sections] There's the poverty of cheap luggage bursted open at immigration Poverty of the turned head averted eye ... ... [gap here where I have not typed rather large sections] Princes of finance you who have not lain there There are poverties and there are poverties ... [gap here where I have not typed rather large sections] There's the poverty of the labor offered silently on the curb The poverty of the no-contact prison visit There's the poverty of yard-sale scrapings spread And rejected the poverty of eviction, wedding bed out on street ... [gap here where I have not typed rather large sections] You who travel by private jet like a housefly Buzzing with the other flies of plundered poverties Princes and courtiers who will never learn through words Here's a mirror you can look into: take it: it's yours.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    I keep reading Adrienne Rich and trying to enjoy it more than I actually do. Reading her poetry reminds me of reading poetry written by my best friend in college. I wanted to like it and I just couldn't get into it. So my honest opinion of this book is that it's just OK. I actually didn't like most of it. But I must say that I was surprised to find one excellent poem in this book: Ballade of the Poverties, which I will be printing out and keeping. And a pretty good one was: You, Again. Those two I keep reading Adrienne Rich and trying to enjoy it more than I actually do. Reading her poetry reminds me of reading poetry written by my best friend in college. I wanted to like it and I just couldn't get into it. So my honest opinion of this book is that it's just OK. I actually didn't like most of it. But I must say that I was surprised to find one excellent poem in this book: Ballade of the Poverties, which I will be printing out and keeping. And a pretty good one was: You, Again. Those two were keepers. The rest of the book was just too abstract and literary for me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    anna (½ of readsrainbow)

    somewhere else being the name of whatever once said your name and you answered

  6. 5 out of 5

    metaphor

    Laid my ear to your letter trying to hear Tongue on your words to taste you there Couldnt read what you had never written there Played your message over feeling bad Played your message over it was all I had To tell me what and wherefore this is what it said: Im tired of you asking me why Im tired of words like the chatter of birds Give me a pass, let me just get by Laid my ear to your letter trying to hear Tongue on your words to taste you there Couldn’t read what you had never written there Played your message over feeling bad Played your message over it was all I had To tell me what and wherefore this is what it said: I’m tired of you asking me why I’m tired of words like the chatter of birds Give me a pass, let me just get by

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Kelley

    god she is good so so so good, even when she's not that good she's still so good

  8. 4 out of 5

    catechism

    every built thing has its unmeant purpose

  9. 4 out of 5

    Norb Aikin

    Interesting. I had trouble at some parts and loved others (chapter V was a personal fave). Built (often) off fragments that often wind around until the meaning reveals itself, it's a rewarding read with lots of depth and layers. She loses me at times...like many great poets, there's a feeling when reading her that she's almost trying too hard for her own good. All in all though, for it being my first time reading Rich, I found her to be satisfyingly complex while maintaining accessibility.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Magali

    If all the poems in this collection had been as good as the one it takes the title from, it would have been a 5 stars ratings for me. But as most of the times when I read poetry, some poems talk to me, others don't... What is certain is how talented Adrienne Rich was and how beautiful and full of meaning her work was.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    Wow. What an amazing poet. I honestly aspire to write like this some day, so subtle and powerful. My favorite (if I could possibly choose one) would be Ballad of the Poverties.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tressa

    Adrienne Rich has some solid poems, but most of hers don't resonate with what's going on and what went on in my life.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    I feel like this book could provide (perhaps it already has) some unintentional publicity for another author because, after reading Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, I am very surprised that its sticker says National Book Award Finalist instead of Winner. This is an incredible collection, and now I feel compelled to check out the winning book (Nikky Finneys Head Off and Split, if you care to know) and see how it compares. I dont know if I have ever read any poet who manages spacing and line breaks I feel like this book could provide (perhaps it already has) some unintentional publicity for another author because, after reading Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, I am very surprised that its sticker says “National Book Award Finalist” instead of “Winner.” This is an incredible collection, and now I feel compelled to check out the winning book (Nikky Finney’s Head Off and Split, if you care to know) and see how it compares. I don’t know if I have ever read any poet who manages spacing and line breaks better than Rich. She takes short sentences and stretches and divides them until their layers have begun to reveal themselves. Have a look at “Benjamin Revisited”: The angel of history is flown now meet the janitor down in the basement who shirtless smoking has the job of stoking the so-called past into the so-called present Many poems do not contain any periods, although question marks and other punctuation appears. I would like to think the lack of periods brings the final line into dialogue with the opening line, which is just one example of how Rich works magic on her pieces. You would be hard pressed to find a more articulate angry voice than the one found in some of these poems. I think “Ballade of the Poverties” may be one of my all-time favorite poems: “You who travel by private jet like a housefly / Buzzing with the other flies of plundered poverties / Princes and courtiers who will never learn through words / Here’s a mirror you can look into: take it: it’s yours.” She also writes terrifyingly well about being ill—“From Sickbed Shores” deserves many rereads as well: “From the shores of sickness you lie out on listless / waters with no boundaries floodplain without horizon / dun skies mirroring its opaque face and nothing not / a water moccasin or floating shoe or tree root to stir interest / Somewhere else being the name of whatever once said your / name” Most people go their whole career without writing anything this powerful, and this was Rich’s final collection in a career filled with high points. I mean, this came out 37 years AFTER she won the National Book Award! With most people whose publication list stretches on, it can be hard to find a point of entry. I am not so sure this is the best introduction to Rich’s work—perhaps some of her earlier work is a bit more accessible, and certainly more widely-read, but this cannot be ignored.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Francisca

    i didn't even realise before i had finished reading this book. a three-star rating seems the most suitable compromise for this collection. at times, i found myself smiling at some poems; at others, i was tempted to scratch my head, too lost to follow her line. and this happened all the time, like the world's most revolting roller-coaster, up and down, up and down. yet, still, at the end, i wanted to read more of hers, see if maybe i could even the score between these rising-decreasing motions i didn't even realise before i had finished reading this book. a three-star rating seems the most suitable compromise for this collection. at times, i found myself smiling at some poems; at others, i was tempted to scratch my head, too lost to follow her line. and this happened all the time, like the world's most revolting roller-coaster, up and down, up and down. yet, still, at the end, i wanted to read more of hers, see if maybe i could even the score between these rising-decreasing motions and settle with one idea. fortunatelly, adrienne rich has a massive back catalogue for me to dip my toes around--a most comforting idea. to me, the biggest highlight of this collection became the titular poem, tonight no poetry will serve. maybe all the grammatical puns moved something in the linguist in me. all i know is found myself smiling at the end of it: Saw you walking barefoot taking a long look at the new moon’s eyelid later spread sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair asleep but not oblivious of the unslept unsleeping elsewhere Tonight I think no poetry will serve Syntax of rendition: verb pilots the plane adverb modifies action verb force-feeds noun submerges the subject noun is choking verb disgraced goes on doing now diagram the sentence

  15. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    I was excited to read Richs poetry because several other recommendations and other works it had been linked to led me to believe I would really enjoy her work. However, most of her work is very stream of consciousness and abstract and generally not my poetry jam. There were a couple poems I enjoyed but overall I was not super moved by this. I was excited to read Rich’s poetry because several other recommendations and other works it had been linked to led me to believe I would really enjoy her work. However, most of her work is very stream of consciousness and abstract and generally not my poetry jam. There were a couple poems I enjoyed but overall I was not super moved by this.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    LOVE "Tonight No Poetry Will Serve" and the Axel Avákar cycle.

  17. 4 out of 5

    donnalyn ♡

    "Between us yet / my part belonged to me / and when we parted / I left no part behind I knew / how to make poetry happen"

  18. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    The title poem was quite moving. The rest of the collection didn't speak to me.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    Know I didn't get all she was saying, but I enjoyed a number of poems, phrases, 'all knew learning looks at first like chaos' other notes in booknotes

  20. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    3.5

  21. 5 out of 5

    non

    Adrienne has me tightly clenched in between her fingers. This is the ultimate poetry collection. I miss her.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Liaken

    Goodreads is deleting my review lately ... hm. There are some good poems in this collection, but as a whole it is too insular (in my view).

  23. 4 out of 5

    mimosa maoist

    Really liked "Waiting for Rain, for Music," "Domain," and "From Sickbed Shores." "Ballade of the Poverties" reminded me of Bishop.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nicola

    I'd like to give this one 3 and a half stars because Rich is a wonderful and important poet, but this wasn't one of my favorite collections. So I'll be generous and give it 4. When I read these poems alone, I didn't connect with the majority of them--some felt a touch didactic, while others, ironically, felt a touch obscure. But when I discussed this book in a book group, it opened up. We started fittingly with the poem "Generosity," in which Rich contemplates her approaching death through I'd like to give this one 3 and a half stars because Rich is a wonderful and important poet, but this wasn't one of my favorite collections. So I'll be generous and give it 4. When I read these poems alone, I didn't connect with the majority of them--some felt a touch didactic, while others, ironically, felt a touch obscure. But when I discussed this book in a book group, it opened up. We started fittingly with the poem "Generosity," in which Rich contemplates her approaching death through animating a Day of the Dead figurine--a skeleton at a typewriter. Someone pointed out that she placed the dedication to Joy Harjo at the end of the poem so as to let the word "joy" bookend the "generosity" of the title. I also enjoyed (ahem) the way Death (instead of the "someone or something") is the one startled at the end. Closely reading this poem and the final poem "Powers of Recuperation" helped me with the overall tone of the book. I read the beginning poems, especially the title poem, as a kind of assault on poetry and its lyricism (poor Keats); the reading of poetry being ineffectual and even violent trumped my reading of poetry being subversive. I now see this "serve" (of the title) more generously as a continuum. Favorite poem by far: "Turbulence." Also: If anyone might know or have an interesting guess at why Rich calls her "counter-muse" Axel Avakar, I'd love to hear.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Full Stop

    http://www.full-stop.net/2011/03/07/r... Review by Alli Carlisle Adrienne Rich has said of her new collection, and every synopsis has quoted, I believe almost everything I know, have come to understand, is somewhere in this book. This is no minor promise from such a lion of the literary spherevenerated public intellectual, radical feminist and leftist, recipient (and refuser) of the highest awards for recognition of poetry. Her newest collection, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010, is http://www.full-stop.net/2011/03/07/r... Review by Alli Carlisle Adrienne Rich has said of her new collection, and every synopsis has quoted, “I believe almost everything I know, have come to understand, is somewhere in this book.” This is no minor promise from such a lion of the literary sphere—venerated public intellectual, radical feminist and leftist, recipient (and refuser) of the highest awards for recognition of poetry. Her newest collection, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010, is accompanied by a grand promise and yet a grander challenge. It is easy to feel that poetry offers little for an access point, contemporary poetry least of all, so interpreting the promised knowledge and understanding here is not simple. Rich’s new collection is a slender volume of lyric notes, a vivid outline of the contemporary world. Her pieces are elliptical, often free-form, short. She is, of course, a master of the craft; a concise image will not only sound sharp and clear, but unwind into countless threads of implication. Read the rest here: http://www.full-stop.net/2011/03/07/r...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    Written "From Sickbed Shores," as she titles a series of reflections on approaching mortality, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve was the last book Rich published during her lifetime. She'd been living with pain for a long time and she doesn't avoid that reality, acknowledging that she is writing her words "with a clawed hand" ("Circum/stances"). In "Don't Flinch" and "Black Locket," she confronts the "negative archaeology" of her condition, thinking of the inevitable reality that "Friends go missing, Written "From Sickbed Shores," as she titles a series of reflections on approaching mortality, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve was the last book Rich published during her lifetime. She'd been living with pain for a long time and she doesn't avoid that reality, acknowledging that she is writing her words "with a clawed hand" ("Circum/stances"). In "Don't Flinch" and "Black Locket," she confronts the "negative archaeology" of her condition, thinking of the inevitable reality that "Friends go missing, mute/ nameless." As always, she draws connection between her condition and the sicknesses of the political and social world, the growing violence, knowing "all violence is not equal". What she offers in response, now, as always, is "alertness, a kind of close mutual attention" ("Scenes of Negotiation"). It doesn't negate the archaeologies of oppression, but it affirms the value of the struggles, hers and those of her descendants. It's impossible not to read the final poem, "Powers of Recuperation," as a benediction from the lone figure walking "listening for chords and codes....her documentary alphabet still evolving."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    The only other poetry by Rich that I've read, Diving Into the Wreck: Poems, 1971-1972, comes from the 1970s. When I read it just a few months ago, it resonated with me. I wanted to go deeper, to take it with me alone, and read the poems repeatedly. (read my review here) The poetry in Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, which is a finalist for the National Book Award, is much more fragmented. Most of the subjects seem to be observational rather than felt, or at least held at arm's length. I liked this The only other poetry by Rich that I've read, Diving Into the Wreck: Poems, 1971-1972, comes from the 1970s. When I read it just a few months ago, it resonated with me. I wanted to go deeper, to take it with me alone, and read the poems repeatedly. (read my review here) The poetry in Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, which is a finalist for the National Book Award, is much more fragmented. Most of the subjects seem to be observational rather than felt, or at least held at arm's length. I liked this little blurb from Domain: "The girl finding her method: you want friends you’re going to have to write letters to strangers." And Scenes of Negotiation seemed rather timely, as it could describe any of the Occupy Wall Street/ the street/ the corner/ the bank/ protests that have been going on.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Julie Leung

    In my eyes, the worst of Adrienne Rich would still be among the best of contemporary American poetry. So even though I would say this isn't one of my favorite volumes of her work, it still contains some haunting feats of word magic. Chief among them: "Turbulence," "Waiting for Rain, for Music," and the Axel Avakar suite. I do admire the range of the works represented in this slim collection. Some intensely political, fiercely rhythmic stuff. I was able to snag this book for free, though I can In my eyes, the worst of Adrienne Rich would still be among the best of contemporary American poetry. So even though I would say this isn't one of my favorite volumes of her work, it still contains some haunting feats of word magic. Chief among them: "Turbulence," "Waiting for Rain, for Music," and the Axel Avakar suite. I do admire the range of the works represented in this slim collection. Some intensely political, fiercely rhythmic stuff. I was able to snag this book for free, though I can see why some other reviewers balked at the price. $24.95 suggested retail? For hardly 81 sparsely inked pages? It smacks of out-of-touchness.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Blythe

    I connected to Rich's collection of poetry on an intellectual level, rather than an emotional one. I didn't so much melt into her words (as I do with some poetry), and read, re-read, and thought about it, trying to make the connections between one phrase, line, or stanza, to the next. Her lines a purposefully ragged, using blank space between lines and words more often than punctuation, and the tend to tumble into one another. Intellectual or otherwise, the writing is beautiful, and there are I connected to Rich's collection of poetry on an intellectual level, rather than an emotional one. I didn't so much melt into her words (as I do with some poetry), and read, re-read, and thought about it, trying to make the connections between one phrase, line, or stanza, to the next. Her lines a purposefully ragged, using blank space between lines and words more often than punctuation, and the tend to tumble into one another. Intellectual or otherwise, the writing is beautiful, and there are several passages and turns of phrase that linger in my thoughts long after I've read them.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Molly

  31. 4 out of 5

    Ron Mohring

  32. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Hittinger

  33. 4 out of 5

    James

  34. 4 out of 5

    Liz

  35. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

  36. 4 out of 5

    angela

  37. 5 out of 5

    Lara

  38. 4 out of 5

    K.C.

  39. 5 out of 5

    MBP

  40. 4 out of 5

    A.M. Riley

  41. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

  42. 5 out of 5

    Littlemissallee

  43. 4 out of 5

    Anne

  44. 4 out of 5

    Sophia Roberts

  45. 5 out of 5

    Mely

  46. 5 out of 5

    Aimee

  47. 5 out of 5

    Korri

  48. 5 out of 5

    Joshunda Sanders

  49. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

  50. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

  51. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

  52. 4 out of 5

    Peter Oresick

  53. 4 out of 5

    Anne H.

  54. 4 out of 5

    Raindrop

  55. 4 out of 5

    Sam Mills

    I was expecting something of more substance. This is a pretty anemic collection. (The perils of buying online.) It offers a few poems of interest, but the publisher should have waited until they'd found a few more to publish a "collection."

  56. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

  57. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

  58. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Hoogterp

  59. 5 out of 5

    Erin

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