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Books Noted
Marilyn Hacker, Names

 

W. W. Norton & Company, 2009

In Marilyn Hacker's thirteenth book of poems, Names, the poet powerfully brings her formal mastery and her political sensibility together. The book contains poems in traditional Western rhyme schemes, several ghazals, translations of poems from the French, and more, yet all work together to create an intense portrait of politicized life. Each work is infused with a sense of how political thinking is a part of all action, no matter how quotidian, and that even as we evaluate our relationship to the current wars, there is room for the sexual and for friendship. In one ghazal, Hacker writes:

The energy is mounting, something will, again,
    begin.
You will yourself to, know you will—but
   when—begin.

Remember anger. Remember indignation.
   Remember desire.
Feel that deceptive surge of adrenaline begin.

The poem goes on to remember that "Mathilde was eighteen," that "Most of us first swooned in a woman's arms," and that "The doctor waking in a refugee camp / heard the keened lessons of the gaunt children begin." Thus, Hacker lights a full world with her verse.


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