The Book of Seventy

Ali­cia Ostriker
  • Review
By – August 26, 2011
Yeats wrote that old men ought to be explor­ers. In Ali­cia Ostriker’s book about what old women ought to be, there are red neon EXIT signs every­where,’ but the poet is not so much con­cerned with get­ting out of life — dying — as get­ting out of life’s com­fort­able and sti­fling rou­tines, in search of some wild furi­ous breath.’ The first epigraphs of the book come from Basho and William Car­los Williams, and Ostriker’s lan­guage has the limpid­ness and trans­paren­cy of great Asian poet­ry and the ener­gy of Dr. Williams’ Amer­i­can idiom. Of the var­i­ous edu­ca­tions Ostrik­er has received in aging,there is the good news that she has learned to be a fool for beau­ty,’ and, some­what more dis­con­cert­ing­ly, being dead is okay.’ There are poems of keen desire and sweet domes­tic­i­ty. The poet looks askance at both, as in Our Dead Friend,” when she writes what a joke sex is, though with­out it/​no avenue to paradise/​no human glue.’ Many of her metaphors are breath­tak­ing­ly orig­i­nal, as when she refers to her mind as a cervix, or says To be blessed/​said the dog/​is to have a pinch/​of God/​inside you/​and all the oth­er dogs/​can smell it.’ I found these poems to get stronger, stranger, more reli­gious and more beau­ti­ful with each read­ing. I urge you to spend time with them and drink their bliss.’ The Book of Sev­en­ty won the 2009 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award in Poetry.
Jason Myers is a writer whose work has appeared in AGNI, BOOK­FO­RUM, and Tin House.

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