When a psychoanalyst became a painter after surviving a stroke, her longtime patient, distinguished and beloved poet Molly Peacock, took up a unique task. The Analyst (from W.W. Norton and Biblioasis) is a new, visceral, twenty-first century “in memoriam” of ambiguous loss in which Peacock brilliantly tells the story of a decades-long patient-therapist relationship that now reverses and continues to evolve. Peacock invigorates the notion of poetry as word-painting: A tapestry of images, from a red enameled steamer on a black stove to Tibetan monks funneling glowing sand into a painting, create the backdrop for her quest to define identity.
“Whatever the subject, rich music follows the tap of Molly Peacock’s baton.”—Washington Post
“This collection is a welcome green in our clearcut time. Its poems unfurl botanically, precisely as they should, and invite us to consider how essential healing is to our progress. Here are two women in a crucial exchange, taking their turns to listen and to learn. There is an honouring afoot in this work that I’ve learned from, a bowing and a thanks that are given with the grace and humility Molly Peacock’s poetry can make sing. Whether it’s the radical company of visual art or poetry, here is how art abides while we persist and find our way.” —Sue Goyette
“There’s a spellbinding intimacy here, between analyst and patient, the two women characters, and, most importantly, between poet and reader. A compelling examination of how much we depend on others, especially when it comes to ‘seeing’ ourselves through someone else’s eyes. Needless to say, the real subject is love.” — Philip Schultz
“With gusto, compassion, and wit matched by consummate craft and remarkable tonal range, Peacock revels in the liberties of language. The stroke of the ‘intimate witness’ (the poet’s beloved analyst) spurs a series of lyric meditations on the forces that shape and reshape identity. With the singular achievement of her seventh collection, Peacock transforms her art.” — Phillis Levin
“Guided to ‘listen, question, and watch things heal,’ I felt both the sting of recognition and the balm of comfort in these honest, graceful poems.” — Rachel Zucker
“Psychoanalysis has always been of a piece with the various languages of literature—a kind of practical poetry—taking its life, as theory and practice, from a larger world of words. A session lasts 50 minutes, [and it’s] always at the same time each week, the way a sonnet is 14 lines. As Molly Peacock superbly demonstrates in The Analyst, the form makes possible the articulation.” — Adam Phillips
(From The Analyst & originally published in CV2)
Slapering Hol Press published another in their two-poet conversations chapbook series in October 2014. Molly is paired with Amy M. Clark in A Turn Around the Mansion Grounds: Poets in Conversation & A Conversation.
“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.
“The page can hardly contain her spirited, sprightly voice.”
Read excerpts from Cornucopia: New and Selected Poems 1975-2002:
WHY I AM NOT A BUDDHIST
I love desire, the state of want and thought
of how to get; building a kingdom in a soul
requires desire. I love the things I’ve sought-
you in your beltless bathrobe, tongues of cash that loll
from my billfold- and love what I want: clothes,
houses, redemption. Can a new mauve suit
equal God? Oh no, desire is ranked. To lose
a loved pen is not like losing faith. Acute
desire for nut gateau is driven out by death,
but the cake on its plate has meaning,
even when love is endangered and nothing matters.
For my mother, health; for my sister, bereft,
wholeness. But why is desire suffering?
Because want leaves a world in tatters?
How else but in tatters should a world be?
A columned porch set high above a lake.
Here, take my money. A loved face in agony,
the spirit gone. Here, use my rags of love.
COUPLE SHARING A PEACH
It’s not the first time
we’ve bitten into a peach.
But now at the same time
it splits — half for each.
Our “then” is inside its “now,”
its halved pit unfleshed —
what was refreshed.
Two happinesses unfold
from one joy, folioed.
In a hotel room
our moment lies
with its ode inside,
a red tinge,
with a hinge.
A FAVOR OF LOVE
“Thank you for making this sacrifice,”
I say to my husband as I run to Kim’s market.
Never mind what the sacrifice is.
Sacrifices between husbands and wives are private,
and fill a person with simple, healing water.
Kim’s buzzes with Sunday night customers
as into the plastic basket go
watercress, asparagus, garlic, pecans
when a girl throws herself through the plastic door flaps
tears streaming down her face while her boyfriend
catapults past the troughs of oranges screaming,
And Mr. Kim peers down his quizzical nose
and Mrs. Kim stands in mountain pose
openly hating the girl for dying of an overdose
among the lemons, mangoes, papayas, and limes
of the country of her family’s origins
plunging among the plums and dying there
the color of a plum beneath her dark hair
for the girl is turning purple.
From the back of the store by the water the boyfriend
shouts that she’s swallowed a lollipop head.
Now she is almost the color of an eggplant,
and young Mr. Kim by the register is asking her,
“Should I call 911?” in a pleasant, insistent whisper,
“Should I call 911?”
Big sounds should boom from her, but only a bubble
squeaks at her lips. “Call 911!” I say,
raising my woollen arm, aiming for her
shoulder blades where I whack, whack her again,
and no lollipop pops out. But sound bellows out!
Like idiots everywhere, her boyfriend shouts
Calm down, Calm down, forcing water into her throat,
which must help dissolve the candy my backslap dislodged.
“Where’s that Choking Victims poster you’re supposed to hang?”
I demand of young Mr. Kim.
“I’ll cancel 911,” he says.
“Where is that lady?” the sobbing girl is asking.
Right here, I say, I am right here behind you.
I am putting endive in my basket.
As she grabs me in a bear hug,
her face has a human color
and it is a hard face, long and horsey.
“Oh Mommy!” she shouts.
As my sister was dying she called me Mommy.
I stand in a mountain pose,
and she smiles up from a pile of plastic baskets.
“My name is Marisol!” she spouts.
My name is Molly!
(I’m afraid she might hear those l’s as m’s.)
“Thank you for saving my life!”
Now don’t eat any more lollipops, I say mommily,
closing the cosmic circle begun at breakfast
when my husband made the promise I won’t reveal.
Grown human beings making sacrifices
return to the universe a favor of love.
Molly Peacock © 2002
Used with permission of W.W. Norton and Company