Many poets say more by using more words, whereas others prefer brevity over expansiveness. In her newest collection, Valentine (Door in the Mountain) clearly favors the latter approach: her language is plain and unadorned, and her small lines expand and contract like the pleats of a fan. But if there's such a thing as language that is too plain, then perhaps Valentine is guilty of writing it. When the reader encounters lines like "Even then, down in my bed/ my hand across the sheet/ anyone's hand/ my face anyone's face," the language is so airy as to almost float away. The final section is an homage to Lucy, an early hominid thought to be a genetic forerunner of modern humans. These poems are the most compelling in the book and give us a sense of specificity, rather than grasping after a tenuous sense of the universal. VERDICT This may appeal to dedicated fans of Valentine's work, but admirers of short, imagistic poetry might try Lorine Niedecker or Graham Foust.--Chris Pusateri, Jefferson Cty. P.L., Lakewood, CO[Page 112]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
In the connected, untitled lyrics that make up the final section of Valentine's 11th collection, the poet is at her fierce best. She addresses Lucy, an early hominid whose skeleton was discovered in Ethiopia in 1974. The details that Valentine always renders palpable and significant are heightened by their juxtaposition with this long-lost life, as when she questions: "Did you have a cup, Lucy?/ O God who transcends time,/ let Lucy have a cup." Current terrors--bodies falling from the World Trade Center towers, the deaths of a pair named Ruth and Grace--are both contextualized and underscored by this totem "skeleton mother." Valentine writes: "when my scraped-out child died Lucy/ you hold her, all the time." The rest of the volume ranges in subject matter and setting, moving from a soldier in the Civil War to a chemo patient, Haiti, ghosts in elephant fields. Each poem shares Valentine's trademark concision and pared-down punch. Some of her severe observations can stop your breath: "Don't listen to the words--/ they're only little shapes for what you're saying,/ they're only cups if you're thirsty, you aren't thirsty." (Sept.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.