Susan Yuzna’s new collection of poetry builds on the success of her 1995 Akron Poetry Prize winner, Her Slender Dress, which won the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award. The new poems speak in a voice recognizably Yuzna’s, though now deepened and darkened with a quickening twist of mordant humor.
Feisty or contemplative, in Eden or on the mean streets, these poems look at the long tradition of women struggling towards fulfillment. Using figures mythical and real, from Venus to Billie Holiday, Yuzna explores the links that exist between the physical transformations unique to female experience and their spiritual and emotional epiphanies.
Encompassing these themes is the paradox of poetry: though a small thing, a “pale bird,” it is also a source of passion and power, “spouting fire,” strong enough to lift us beyond the commonplace, to change daily experience into moments when we recognize the presence of the extraordinary.
Susan Yuzna’s poems have attitude, they refuse to look away from the exigencies of contemporary womanhood: ‘This is a mother speaking’, she tells us, straight out, or ‘I’m getting old and I’m going to play cards with Venus and cheat. Got a problem with that?’ Her voice is honest, direct, passionate, forged by the need to break into utterance. Poems like ‘Golden Gate,’ ‘The Telephonist,’ and ‘Her Name Was Becky’ are among the finely wrought poems here, her delicate tracery of image joined to a fiery vision, like Blake’s, of savage intensity.