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School Figures


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About the Author

Cathy Song is the author of four previous books of poetry: Picture Bride, winner of the Yale Younger Poets prize; Frameless Windows, Squares of Light; School Figures; and The Land of Bliss.


Song (Frameless Windows, Squares of Light), a Yale Series of Younger Poets Award winner in 1982, writes in her third book about her family and her past. She conducts the music of her verse with great skill, offering her infant son's ``ring of eight pearly teeth/ like beads on a rattle'' and evoking students who disappear ``in the broken shoes of the wind.'' Her most affecting poems concern family. In ``A Conservative View'' her mother's thrift is stunning. In ``Sunworshippers'' Song tells us, ``We were not allowed to love ourselves too much.'' The passion of her understanding carries over to others. ``All day I hear him,'' she writes in ``Journey,'' a poem about her father's dying. And then: ``Night whittles a sled of moon. Shavings of wood/ drift to the far/ corners of the room.'' Sometimes the poems read like prose broken into lines of verse, or too little tension informs a poem, so that its release brings a reader only slight satisfaction: in ``Killing Time'' Song steps back, in a reflection of frustration with her husband, to end, passively, with leaping ``in shadows across the grass.'' In all, this is good work-that could risk more. (Oct.)

"An intensely lyrical, elegantly modulated collection. . . . Song's careful, painterly eye makes her the mistress of small moments of perception that, strung together, expand into a larger frequently numinous understanding."
--Women's Review of Books
"Whether describing everyday errands or probing the depths of emotion, the poems in Song's third collection are at once vivid and fluid, short-lined rhythms, lend themselves to an understated assurance, allowing the poet to startle--even to shock."
--Virginia Quarterly Review

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