Book Reviews

Live In the Moment, Speak Now: Rae Armantrout’s Just Saying

© 2013 Wesleyan University Press

© 2013 Wesleyan University Press

Rae Armantrout grew up in San Diego and teaches at the University of California, San Diego. A poet of the Language school, she has also written prose and dabbled in translation. Author of over a dozen books and recipient of numerous prizes and grants, including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2010 for her collection Versed, Rae Armantrout’s career is impressive to say the least. Her latest book, Just Saying, published by Wesleyan University in early 2013, does not disappoint.

The most gripping quality of Armantrout’s work is how she manages to say so much with so few words. Her poems, though small, are memorable through their use of vivid language, appealing to both the senses and intellect. “Inflection” is a perfect example where Armantrout does just that as she conveys a sense exploration through inner thoughts, demonstrated within the following lines:

When I wake up, I’m dragging
lower incisors
along those above,
and, for an instant,
I experience
satisfaction and fear
in equal part.

The raw energy that flows from these lines are amazingly powerful, and to borrow from Armantrout herself, drag reader in, our breath taken away evoking a sense of breathlessness from the short sentences.

Not only are Armantrout’s poems carefully crafted, they are an honest reflection of our time. Armantrout is very successful at capturing modern issues, bringing into the world of poetry that chatter and fast paced life style our modern society has adopted. Most of the poems in the book are made up of short lines and stanzas, but “Treatment” is the only single stanza poem that also has longer line lengths than the rest of the book:

Before they can marry, he must
come to tolerate,
then feel guarded affection for
a good-natured buffoon
who populates dioramas
with stuffed mouse couples in period dress

In this poem, Armantrout captures a raw honesty and energy previously mentioned; it is a brutal honesty that shines through and leaves the reader is wonderment.

At first glance the pages within Just Saying almost seem like a blank canvas with just a few speckles of paint from an indecisive painter. But after a close read of Just Saying, one can see that Armantrout has carefully selected each and every word in her poems. Witty, wise, and physiological, Just Saying will not disappoint fans of Armantrout’s work. Her voice is just as strong as ever and readers will be drawn into the openness of the words within the collection. The only downside is that the reader will more than likely be left wanting more and eagerly awaiting Armantrout’s next book of poetry.

Purchase Just Saying through Wesleyan University Press.

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One thought on “Live In the Moment, Speak Now: Rae Armantrout’s Just Saying

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