From the melancholy, pandemic-inflected New Poems (“Can meaning take its storied place on suddenly vacant shores?”) to the vatic lyricism of To Be Read in the Dark (“the smiling assassin / isn’t a dream / what is embodied / asks us to listen”), to the meditations on gifts and giving in Among the Names (“among men / who find in the taking / the gift they seek / (use = accumulation”), this gorgeous and overdue volume amply demonstrates the amazing depth and breadth of Maxine Chernoff’s subjects, structures, approaches, language, and empathy.
In Maxine Chernoff’s new collection of excellent earlier and brilliant melodic new poems, beautiful staccato images follow one another in short lines that dance down the page in a magical stream. The poems are alive with surreal vigor, and surprises abound. In their formality and artfulness of design, they are also pleasantly unpredictable. The natural world fascinates Chernoff (birds, a leaf, a raindrop), and her insight into a wide range of other subjects is always rendered with the same lyrical intensity and poignancy she brings to the natural world.
Chernoff translates ashes to clay, and life to light, in this seafarer epic that navigates both land and sea with wisdom. She is at home in her vision but at ease in the company of Lorine Niedecker, William Carlos Williams, Robinson Jeffers and Mina Loy.
—Andrei Codrescu, author of Too Late for Nightmares: New Poems
Maxine Chernoff is a wordsmith par excellence. Her new collection covers political turmoil, pandemic anxiety, and matters of the heart and body, while finding language for our fractious times. Chernoff’s poems are indeed “lacing the world in / tangled sound and / string.”
—May-Lee Chai, author of Useful Phrases for Immigrants and Tomorrow in Shanghai: Stories