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NYT Books Reviews C.K. Williams and Cynthia Cruz

By Harriet Staff

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Over at the New York Times books section, Dana Jennings is getting positively morbid with a dual review of C.K. Williams’s Writers Writing Dying and Cynthia Cruz’s The Glimmering Room. Jennings focuses the review on the way both poets approach death:

The poets C. K. Williams and Cynthia Cruz, at first glance, couldn’t seem more different. Mr. Williams owns a Pulitzer and has published more than 20 books; her latest book is just Ms. Cruz’s second. He casts long, serpentine lines upon the page; she savors the cryptic burst. And Mr. Williams was born into the same 1930s Newark that shaped Philip Roth, while Ms. Cruz came of age in Santa Cruz, Calif., skateboarding and listening to punk.

He’s analog. She’s digital. But each writer’s new collection is a bracing meditation on mortality. In “Writers Writing Dying” Mr. Williams, who is 76, squints at the near horizon of his own passing, while in “The Glimmering Room,” Ms. Cruz homes in on deaths that arrive too soon. And with the precision and passion in their (mostly) well-honed lines both writers show that they also know how to make love to the page, urging the reader to go slow — which is how all poetry should be read.

Jennings finds much to admire in Williams’s latest, but devotes the better part of the review to Cruz’s book, writing:

In these poems, with titles like “Chronic,” “The Great Destroyer” and “Death Star,” Ms. Cruz does more than just brood on death, mental illness and the minefields of girlhood — she gets this close to the thing itself, to “the pilot/Blue light of the mind” going out…

These are melancholy spells of damage and sad madness chanted by children high on glue, crystal meth and “dream pills” who can’t keep up with this too-fast world, boys and girls who have become prey: “My friend Billy dressed as a boy,” Ms. Cruz writes in “California.” “She cut her long blonde hair off/So that her father would stop/Always touching her.”

“The Glimmering Room” is an exquisite fever dream of drugs, anorexia and unwanted sex (in both senses of the word) populated by young women and men — the walking dead — who have lost all sense of where the edge is. “I have always been drawn to this,” Ms. Cruz said in an online interview with The Rumpus, “have always wanted to turn the terrible into the beautiful.”

Her fierce care for these characters and the attention she lavishes on them redeems them. And she declines to leave the reader and her lonely children with mere despair. The last lines of the book’s final poem, “Gone, Galore,” leaven the suffering in “The Glimmering Room” with a tender touch, like a parent brushing the hair from a child’s eyes

The rest can be found here.

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 by Harriet Staff.