PoemsBook - 1999
In poems that balance realistic and surrealistic narratives, irony and sentiment, Calbert records the journey of a woman reeling from a number of losses-her youth, the death of a close friend, religious faith-toward love and marriage. These poems speak directly of and from the self, and in so doing echo Whitman's conversational grace. Calbert writes an updated feminist song of herself, a song that celebrates the pleasure of being the modern "woman as wild card, as other/than wife, mother, lover, friend," the woman who delights in forging herself with wit and wisdom.
The title poem, "Bad Judgment," shows how the little lies we tell ourselves and others can create lives of bad faith, and as much as she would like to be consoled for her losses, reassured about the permanence of her recompenses, Calbert does not seek the easy balm of dogma. Instead of grace or God, per se, she suggests, we have perspective. And Calbert shows that we are blessed, in our quest for simplifying principles, to discover the exceptional.
Cathleen Calbert is the author of one previous collection of poetry, Lessons in Space, published by the University Press of Florida in 1997. She was a recipient of The Nation Discovery Prize in 1991, the Gordon Barber Memorial Award of The Poetry Society of America in 1994, and a writing fellowship from The Rhode Island State Council for the Arts in 1995. Her poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry 1995, Feminist Studies, The Hudson Review, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where she is an Associate Professor at Rhode Island College.
"Between 'Don't try anything!' and 'She'll try anything!' fall (or rise: depending on her mood) Cathy Calbert's startling new poems, so cool, so speculative, so disabused, so warm. Our colloquial