“An invaluable little book . . . Like any great teacher of anything, Peacock believes that in giving us a way to understand her subject, she is giving us a tool for living.” Seattle Times

Read an excerpt:

“All my life, what I’ve hoped to create in my poems is a complex world, one that accommodates ambivalence, ambiguity, adulthood. For me, ambiguity is that shimmering verge, a phrase I have used throughout this book to describe the components of the complex emotional states we all experience that too often boil down to single words in single categories. Thus death is. . . . Supply the predictable adjective: serious. How can death be funny? Like the place where one color moves into the next category on a color wheel—is it blue? Or is it green? Is it mallard green? Or is it peacock blue? Each category of experience shimmers into its vergence with the next. Dying itself is a shimmering verge between life and death. For me poetry always takes place in the verge, and verges always shimmer because the light of the mind shines on both categories at once, trying to distinguish between them.”

© Molly Peacock, 1999.


“In a successful effort to demonstrate the value of her oft-neglected medium, poet and memoirist Molly Peacock (Paradise, Piece by Piece, 1998, etc.) guides the reader through 13 of her favorite poems with grace, humor, and warmth. Peacock, who has been responsible for bringing poetry into the lives of millions of commuters via the nationwide Poetry in Motion series, now sets herself to the task of helping readers understand just what it is they are reading. Starting at her own childhood delight in the appearance and construction of words, and with a brief and painless stop to explain her basic terminology, Peacock moves on to detailed readings of her talismans, the poems that are emblematic of the various emotions or stages of her life. She presents a selection of poets diverse in both style and period. From the soothing repetition of the late Jane Kenyons hym-like Let Evening Come, which she recommends as a spiritual tonic, to the unadorned free verse of Yusef Komunyakaa’s My Fathers Loveletters, with which she examines her own family life, Peacock rarely falters as she reveals the nuances of language and meaning inherent in each writers work. Occasionally the authors own poetic constructions obscure the clarity she is trying to elicit from the poems; but her sheer delight in them is infectious even when her point is unclear. The final chapter of the book is dedicated to advocating that readers start poetry circles, and Peacock has fellow poets suggest their own talisman poems for readers use. Poetry circles, the author writes, make you know you have a soul, and that other people do, too. A fervent claim, but one that Peacock has, with this book, made valid. Essential for poetry novices yet thoroughly enjoyable for initiates, this illuminating handbook is a joy.”
Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.