In Suzanne Cleary’s moving new book of poems, Crude Angel, the imagination enters into a tender dialogue with the world. Now the world has the last word, as wish gives way to fact, and now the imagination steps forward to fill the landscape with what is missing. The poems seem so homely and open in the particulars used to ground their shifting perspectives that the reader can’t help but be drawn in.
In these headlong, often hilarious, intensely pleasurable poems, Suzanne Cleary offers us Degas’ brother “twisted on [his] back in the wet grass of morning,” serving day after day as the model for a fallen jockey, and the theremin “played by waving one’s hands // in the air surrounding [it]… / …a song made entirely/of the world’s poor materials // somehow charged.” The poet’s work is humble, the poems seem to say, but she goes at it with a passion worthy of her many awkward characters. She’s faithful to the world as it is, its “poor materials,” charging them with her humor and quixotic imagination.
Suzanne Cleary’s witty, meditative lines interrogate nostalgias of personal and collective memory; luminaries as divergent as Gertude Stein, Leon Theremin, and Lawrence Welk offer compelling reminders of the zeal and labor involved in making art. From the sublime vistas of natural landscapes to the gleaming interiors of Woolworth’s “buttery air” to dubbing rooms to handwritten letters exchanged between lovers that provide “practice for loving/first the world, then ourselves,” Crude Angel tracks the heart’s urgent aspirations in poems of high ambition and rich reward.
—Jane Satterfield, Apocalypse Mix and Her Familiars
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