Longlisted for the National Book Award
A selection of poems that addresses the quotidian and the global, from one of our most essential poets.
Drawing on two decades worth of award-winning poetry, Marilyn Hacker’s generous selections in A Stranger’s Mirror include work from four previous volumes along with twenty-five new poems, ranging in locale from a solitary bedroom to a refugee camp.
In a multiplicity of voices, Hacker engages with translations of French and Francophone poets. Her poems belong to an urban world of cafés, bookshops, bridges, traffic, demonstrations, conversations, and solitudes. From there, Hacker reaches out to other sites and personas: a refugee camp on the Turkish/Syrian border; contrapuntal monologues of a Palestinian and an Israeli poet; intimate and international exchanges abbreviated on Skype—perhaps with gunfire in the background.
These poems course through sonnets and ghazals, through sapphics and syllabics, through every historic-organic pattern, from renga to rubaiyat to Hayden Carruth’s “paragraph.” Each is also an implicit conversation with the poets who came before, or who are writing as we read.
A Stranger’s Mirror is not meant only for poets. These poems belong to anyone who has sought in language an expression and extension of his or her engagement with the world—far off or up close as the morning’s first cup of tea.
Composed of new poems, work from four previous collections, and a handful of translations, this third volume of selected work from Hacker (Names) stands as a textured but unified testament to her output over the past two decades. Lyric meditations firmly grounded in the daily and the political reflect shifts the self, in current affairs, and the poet's aesthetic development. Hacker has long made use of received forms and traditional structures as a counterpoint to her direct, open language. This volume highlights the increased prevalence of formal verse in her oeuvre, as well as the variety of forms and the diversity of their cultural provenance. A striking number of the poems are occasional some were written in response to current events but just as many are about matters of personal importance to the author, and the discourse surrounding them. Though Hacker's meditations on desire, age, illness, and other aspects of her life can be very intimate, the lens is always outward, the self suffused with a sense of connection to friends, strangers, cities, and histories both inherited and in the making. Whatever the origins of particular poems, one constant in the collection is Hacker's signature conflation of public and private spheres in the service of heightened awareness and empathy.