“Each step we take is a separate flare into darkness…”


odysseyMy review of Gwyneth Lewis’s A Hospital Odyssey in the San Francisco Chronicle today here.  (I’ve interviewed the poet here, and written about her on the Book Haven here.)

From my review:

“Nevertheless, all the distracting and engaging dramatis personae serve only as a scrim for the fey intelligence behind them: the narrator who teases us in a literary hide-and-seek, Onegin-like, from behind the mask of her protagonist. What remains is a voice vibrant, lively and clear as a bell – not looking inward so much as in wonder at the world around her. And, pressed from her lines, a rare vintage of wisdom.”

As always when writing a review, there are little snippets of the book — in this case, it’s a novel in verse — that never quite make it into the final review.  (Given the strict and ever-shortening word limit nowadays, this should hardly come as a surprise.)  So here are three excerpts I would have liked to included:


Gwyneth Lewis

“When love’s so weary it hopes for nothing
it’s at its strongest, though it feels no power.
It pushes, persists and starts its streaming.
Clay relaxes to the touch of moisture,
it gathers force, pushes sand grains over

and, on its way, is fed by everything
It touches, now it’s flowing over,
It surges and begins to sing
words of mercy in the throats of gutters,
thoughts translated into sudden flowers.”

“Peace, Love and Death. Of these three
Peace is the least, the greatest one is Death.
When someone chooses it willingly,
Death includes the others.  It’s the roughest path,
but the kindest.”

“Neither of us will get out of here
alive unless I can re-order time
to a second body of words and rhymes.”


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