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Firstborn

PDF The collection is broken into three part: "The Egg", "The Edge", and "Cottonmouth Country"

Many of the poems in "The Egg" seem to relate to pregnancy, childbirth, and babies. They are, however, a small part of the poems. A footnote reluctantly included in the poet's accounts of her life and other lives. We all have a common origin. Every biography begins loosely the same way (so-and-so was born...) But this is recurrent throughout the collection. Take the line from the titular poem of the third part ("Birth, not death, is hard loss." - Cottonmouth Country). Or the line from "Nurse's Song" in the second part ("she's a sinking ship / Your mother. Wouldn't spoil her breasts." - Nurse's Song). If pregnancy, childbirth, and babies appear to be more prominent in the first part, perhaps it has more to do with the name, "The Egg", and the associations it evokes...

I heard by insides
Roll into a crib...
- The Egg, I

Dramamine. You let him
Rob me. But
How long? how long?
Past cutlery I saw
My body stretching like a tear
Along the paper.
- The Egg, II

The thing
Is hatching. Look. The bones
Are bending to give way.
It's dark. It's dark.
He's brought a bowl to catch
The pieces of the baby.
- The Egg, III

In here my bedroom walls
Are paisley, like a plot
Of embryos. I like here,
Waiting for its kick.
- The Wound


Indeed, the poems of "The Egg" seem to have been written in opposition of the maternal expectations imposed upon women. Her perspective is more closely aligned to writers like Simone de Beauvoir and Katherine Mansfield. I'm reminded of a passage from one of Mansfield's stories, "At the Bay", quoted by Beauvoir in THE SECOND SEX...

"It was all very well to say that it was the common lot of women to bear children. It wasn't true. She, for one, could prove that wrong. She was broken, made weak, her courage was gone, through childbearing. And what made it doubly hard to bear was, she did not love her children."


"The Edge" of the second part seems to be the state the poet desires to inflict upon the reader. Indeed, the poems of "The Edge" put the reader on edge. But this is not limited to the poems in the second part. Suffice to say that the poet has, in the second part as in the entire collection, captured a state very near "the edge" - that is, the precipice near the breaking point. Indeed, many characters and instances described seem to be at the precipice of a breaking point. The second part could just as easily be called "The Precipice". But then it would lose the foreboding qualities that accompany "the edge"...

He's bored -
I see it. Don't I lick his bribes, set his bouquets
In water? ...
- The Edge

And watching him, I feel my legs like snow
That let him finally let him go
As he lies draining there. And see
How even he did not get to keep that lovely body.
- The Racer's Widow

Which still does not explain my nightmares:
How she surges like her yeast dough through the door-
way shrieking It is I, love, back in living colour
After all these years.
- My Life Before Dawn

Now huge with cake their
White face floats above its cup; they smile,
Sunken women, sucking at their tea . . .
I'd let my house do up in flame for this fire.
- Seconds


The poems of "Cottonmouth Country" are more ambiguous. The name alone, "Cottonmouth Country" is ambiguous. Is this a slang for an existing country? The United States? Or is this a country of the poet's invention? A country that is uncannily like our own, but with many marked differences. Differences that hang in the air like a pollutant. That fade in and out of view as we follow the poet on her guided tour of "Cottonmouth Country"...

Fish bones waked the waves off Hatteras.
And there were other signs
That Death wooed us, by water, wooed us
By land: among the pines
An uncurled cottonmouth that rolled on moss
Reared in the polluted air.
Birth, not death, is hard loss.
I know. I also left a skin there.
- Cottonmouth Country


Overall, I must say this may be the best first collection of poetry I have ever read. I wouldn't have known it was the poet's first collection. She has already developed such a distinctive style. Her voice is so clear, so piercing in its precision. Her imagery is advanced. Her ideas are mature.

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PDF Firstborn ebook download

Title
eBook formatPaperback, (torrent)En
Author
PublisherEcco Press
File size1.3 Mb
GanrePoetry
Release date 02.04.1983
ISBN9780912946931
Pages count53
Book rating4.54 (75 votes)
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