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Marya: A Life - Back in Print
A Bloodsmoor Romance: back in print
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Text and Criticism
Boxing

Tenderness

Tenderness   

Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher:
 Ontario Review Press
Year: 1996
Length: 91 pages

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Publisher's Blurb

When Joyce Carol Oates published her first collection of poems, Anonymous Sins, in 1969, the reviewers, who had long recognized her talent as a writer of prose fiction, were quick to see that she was equally talented as a poet. "At the very least, Miss Oates is a major writer," stated Library Journal; "she may even be a great one."

Anonymous Sins was followed over the next two decades by six more volumes, each of them more than comfirming the original estimate of the poet. Tenderness, her eighth volume, is a generous selection of fifty-seven poems written during the past eight years. Most of them have been previously published in literary journals and magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, Boulevard, Gettysburg Review, The New Yorker, and TriQuarterly.

The poems gathered here range from the lyric to the narrative and satiric, from a glimpse into childhood ("O Crayola!") to a woman's recollections of her adolescent experiences with men ("Sexy" and "Flirtation, July 1953"), from an epiphany in a supermarket ("Tenderness") to sardonic reflections on an American obsession ("$") and a chilling dramatic monologue by a convicted sex offender ("Like Walking to the Drug Store, When I Get Out"). Joyce Carol Oates is at the height of her powers here.

Contents

I. TENDERNESS

  • O Crayola!
  • Glimpsed from a Car, Quickly Passing
  • In Blue Nantucket
  • Flirtation, July 1953
  • The Thin Rain
  • Nightmare, So Sweet
  • The Bullfrogs
  • Off-Season
  • On This Morning of Grief
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Sexy
  • Tenderness

II. UNDERTOW

  • Prenatal
  • Island, 1949
  • Lost Creek
  • The Stone Well
  • Marsena Sportsmen's Club, 1957
  • Child Walking in Sleep
  • Snapshot Album
  • Undertow, Wolf's Head Lake
  • The Infant's Wake
  • Recurring Dream of Childhood
  • Flash Flood
  • Rise Up, O Men of God
  • Elegy: The Ancestors
  • The Lord Is My Shepherd I Shall Not Want
  • Nostalgia
III. WHAT IS MOST AMERICAN IS MOST IN MOTION

  • $
  • Orion
  • Recollection, in Tranquility
  • Insomnia
  • He Was Talking About His Friend
  • Hands, Prints, Time: A Collage
  • Upstairs
  • There Was a Shot
  • The Black Glove: A Rapture
  • American Holiday
  • Like Walking to the Drugstore, When I Geta Out
  • Ballad of Ashfield Avenue
  • What Is Most American Is Most in Motion
  • Dakota Mystery, 10 May 1994
  • Frequent Flier I
  • Frequent Flier II

IV. IN THE COUNTRY OF THE BLUE

  • The Riddle
  • Motive, Metaphor
  • Burning Oak, November
  • The Insomniac
  • Old Concord Cemetery
  • Summer Squall, Monhegan Island
  • Hermit Crab
  • George Bellows' "Mrs. T. in Cream Silk, No. 1" (1919-23)
  • The Triumph of Gravity
  • Immobility Defense
  • To an Aged Cat Dying in My Arms
  • I Am Krishna, Destroyer of Worlds
  • Such Beauty!
  • In the Country of the Blue


Excerpt

Nostalgia

Rural District School #7, Ransomville, New York

Crumbling stone steps of the old schoolhouse
Boarded-up windows shards of winking glass
Built 1898, numerals faint in stone as shadow
Through a window, obedient rows of desks mute
Only a droning of hornets beneath the eaves,
the cries of red-winged blackbirds by the creek

How many generations of this rocky countryside grown & gone
How many memories & all forgotten
no one to chronicle, no regret

& the schoolhouse soon to be razed & goodbye America
The flagless pole, what relief!
I love it, the eye lifting skyward to nothing
Never to pledge allegiance to the United States of America
again
Never to press my flat right hand over my heart again
as if I had one

 

Reviews

  • Library Journal, September 1, 1996, p182
  • Publisher's Weekly, September 30, 1996, p84
  • Houston Chronicle, November 10, 1996, Z21