Letter from a Place I've Never Been

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Letter from a Place I've Never Been

New and Collected Poems, 1986-2020

Hilda Raz
Edited by Kwame Dawes
Introduction by John Kinsella

480 pages

Paperback

April 2021

978-1-4962-2682-2

$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

April 2021

978-1-4962-2804-8

$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

April 2021

978-1-4962-2805-5

$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Hilda Raz has an ability “to tell something every day and make it tough,” says John Kinsella in his introduction. Letter from a Place I’ve Never Been shows readers the evolution of a powerful poet who is also one of the foremost literary editors in the country. Bringing together all seven of her poetry collections, a long out-of-print early chapbook, and her newest work, this collection delights readers with its empathetic and incisive look at the inner and outer lives we lead and the complexities that come with being human.

Showcasing the work of a great American voice, Letter from a Place I’ve Never Been at last allows us to see the full scope and range of Raz’s work. 
 

Author Bio

Hilda Raz is a former editor of Prairie Schooner and was named the first Luschei Professor and Editor in the Department of English at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She is the editor of the Mary Burritt Christiansen Poetry Series at the University of New Mexico Press and the poetry editor for ABQ (in)Print and Bosque Press. She is the author or editor of fourteen books, including List and StoryKwame Dawes is Chancellor’s Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. John Kinsella is the author of more than thirty books, including Jam Tree Gully and Firebreaks.

Praise

“Early on in Letter from a Place I’ve Never Been, a speaker worries, ‘What if I’m broken and can’t be mended, / or worse, the world is broken around me / and I the only whole thing in it?’ Here is the Jewish notion of tikkun olam, that it’s our task to repair what is wounded. Indeed, in this impressive collection showcasing more than thirty years of work, Hilda Raz makes an argument for poetry as a way of healing our brokenness. These are poems that remake the world of ‘melt and fracture’—using language that growls from the page—so that it belongs to everyone, all the ‘odd and splendid’ parts of ourselves worthy of examination, of praise.”—Jehanne Dubrow, author of Dots & Dashes and The Arranged Marriage

“I love the immersive experience this book offers. Readers track Raz’s imaginative language across the decades, as she mourns and meditates, catalogs and investigates. Resisting the cultural and technological policing of women’s bodies, the poet evokes illness, recovery, sorrow, and delight. These narrators—gritty, world-loving, tenacious—bind the personal and political in unforgettable family and diasporic narratives. Unprecedented when first published, Raz’s poems about mothering her transgender child have become foundational texts. ‘Some of what I couldn’t stand to lose I lost,’ a narrator states, echoing Elizabeth Bishop, one influence here. Friendship and the natural world console: ‘If the good life is coming / to us in our lifetime, / surely it is here / in this orchard in April at twilight.’ Like her jeweler son’s transformation of wire and gemstone into bracelet and earrings, Raz’s transformations—of body, circumstance, homeplace, passion—work a resilient, wondrous alchemy.”—Robin Becker, author of The Black Bear Inside Me 

“To read Hilda Raz’s Letter from a Place I’ve Never Been is to open a precious gift, to sit down to a feast celebrating a life in poetry. If you’ve read Raz’s earlier work, the poems will be old friends, made new by seeing them in this expansive context. If you have not, you have a journey ahead worth any price, let alone the price of a book. Raz’s poems deal with grief, longing, and loss in all their complicated forms but interwoven with transformations that take your breath away. Her poems are in turns lyrical and challenging, but always precise, each word exactly the right word. And at the end of Letter from a Place I’ve Never Been, there are the new poems waiting to be discovered and savored, poems which, to quote a title in the book, serve as ‘Letters from a Lost Language,’ that haunting, that beautiful.”—Jesse Lee Kercheval, author of America that island off the coast of France

Table of Contents

Editor’s Note by Kwame Dawes    
Introduction by John Kinsella    
What Is Good (1988)
I
She Speaks    
Yom Kippur    
Father    
Shabbos    
Dishes    
Accident    
Piecing    
Saying Goodbye to the Property    
What Is Good    
II
Family    
Worry about Meaning    
Helios at Bread Loaf, the Album    
With Stanley Kunitz at the Car Wash    
The Man    
Women Raised in the Fifties    
Shame, or the Computer Uses of Natural Language    
Assignment    
Three Ways of Looking at It    
Trying to Buy off Death    
Lacunae    
III
What Happened This Summer    
Divorce    
Detail    
1 September, 100 Degrees    
Journal Entry: The Tropics    
A Meeting with My Ex-Husband    
Version    
Pain    
Small Shelter    
High Ground    
IV
Some Other Women Now    
Plate xii    
Widow    
Lot’s Wives    
Gossip    
She    
Oracle    
Pregnant Woman    
Visitant    
Cradle    
I Am Sick    
Visions    
V
Jan’s Orchard, Nebraska    
Locus    
Sex    
Alone    
Late March    
Look    
Piecing the Universe Together with Dresses    
Friend in a Distant City    
Advice    
I Can’t. Yes, You Can.     
C3    
Prospectus    
Life Outside the Self: The Uncertainty Principle    
The Bone Dish (1989)
That’s Something    
Sarah’s Wing    
April Teaching, Outstate Nebraska    
Diction    
Native    
Words    
Birthday    
November Night Driving    
Town/ County    
Bear    
The Sandhills, Early Winter    
Conversation    
Photograph of a Child Sleeping    
What Happens    
My Daughter Home from College Tells Me about the Gods    
Ambition    
September: Getting Married Again    
My Dream, Your Dream    
Inside the Geese    
Divine Honors (1997)
Prologue
Repair    
Narrative without People    
Let’s consider the consequences    
Isaac Stern’s Performance    
I
I Hear the Name of the Moon and Am Afraid    
Weathering/ boundaries/ what is good    
To Explain    
Mu    
Coming Down with Something    
Fish-Belly-Mound    
“Two Are Better Than One”*    
Getting Well    
For Barbara, Who Brings a Green Stone in the Shape of a Triangle    
Day-Old Bargain    
Breast/ fever    
II
Sarah’s Response    
Sarah among Animals    
Sarah’s Head/ 16 March, Four Months after Surgery    
Sarah Fledging    
Sarah’s Waltz    
Balance    
Order    
Axe-earrings, abalone shell    
Birth    
III
Opening/ Working/ Walking    
Hey You    
Grieving, she hits the red fox    
Mapping/ Bleating    
Trope    
Sow Sister    
Bernini’s Ribbon    
Petting the Scar    
Teaching, Hurt    
Riddle    
IV
Chigger Socks    
Daylight Savings: Sandy Creek, Nebraska    
Cobb’s Hill Pond    
Fuss    
Zen: the one I love most holds my tongue    
Camarada    
From Your Mouth to God’s Ear    
“We don’t deserve what we get”     
G: But it’s still not all right with you?     
Mutation Blues    
Insomnia Again    
Service    
V
Hot    
Dying    
Terror: A Riddle    
Nuts    
Lincoln, Nebraska    
Letter of Transmittal    
Now    
Who Does She Think She Is    
Earlier    
Vowels    
Epilogue
Gloxinia/ Flicker/ Oxalis    
Recovery    
My Award/ The Jews of Lukow    
Ecstasies    
Trans (2001)
I
Avoidance    
What Do You Want?     
Drought: Teaching, Benedict, Nebraska    
Tough    
Names My Mother Knew    
Houses    
Said to Sarah, Ten    
Fast Car on Nebraska I-80: Visiting Teacher    
Afternoon, with Cold    
Sick    
Back    
Friday    
“The world is not something to look at; it is something to be in.”     
II
Secrets    
Heart Transplant    
Footnotes    
Doing the Puzzle/ Angry Voices    
Prelude    
Part Coquette, Part Monster    
Trans    
Trans formation/ Feathers/ Train Travel    
Stone    
Before John and Maria’s Wedding    
III
Historical Documents    
Volunteers    
Some Questions about the Storm    
Lost Jewelry    
Mother-in-Law    
Women & Men    
Some Questions for the Evening Class    
Insomnia III    
She    
Letter from a Place I’ve Never Been    
Not Now    
Summer    
Anna Maria Is Coming, or Maybe Thomas Barton, or Max!     
IV
Hello    
The Address on the Map    
Wonder Woman’s Rules of the Road    
Aaron at Work/ Rain    
Sarah Returned to Me, Wearing the Poet’s Gloves    
Company/ 3 AM     
First, Thus    
The Storehouse    
Early Morning, Left-Handed    
Visitation: Pink Foam Letter    
The Funeral of X, Who Was Y’s Mother    
All Odd and Splendid (2008)
I. History: Everyone today looked remarkable
Vocation    
Diaspora    
Childhood    
Water Ceremonies    
All Odd and Splendid    
Wilt    
Son    
He Graduates from Clown School    
He/ She: The Bike    
Credo    
Spring Snowstorm    
Dante’s Words    
Sunday Morning, without Couplet    
Tyr    
II. The Transfer of Power: So absolute and immutable
Once    
Storm    
The Transfer of Power    
An Evening    
Infant, in New York    
Visit    
Four/ Two    
Eva Unwraps a Band-Aid    
III. War: Button, feather, tassel or stripe
Complaint    
Flight    
The Public Baths    
Pets    
September 11    
Fire Should Be Measured by What Didn’t Burn    
Paper Strip    
IV. Seeing the Changes
Arousal    
Coma    
A Friend    
Her Dream    
Objects When the Body Fails    
Beloved, 24    
Funeral, then Flu    
Suite    
The Changes    
A Body of Water    
Elegy for Two Poets    
V. The Especial Shape
2 AM Migraine    
Moving Pictures    
Dark Haired, Dark Eyed, Fierce    
Professional Travel    
Alice    
VI. All Odd and Splendid
Terza Rima    
Now    
Tenor Part    
Splendid    
Love This    
Thank You Very Much    
List & Story (2020)
I
Autobiography    
The Spa of the Three Widows    
Transportation    
Home    
Go    
Late September    
Photograph    
Here we go alone, and like it better so    
Flowers of Immortality    
II
Women and Poetry    
Women’s Lib    
Collaboration    
Women and the Global Imagination    
The Burnt Journals    
Dear Sky    
April    
One Toe, Crooked    
List and Story    
Six Objects in a Gold Foil Box    
War    
A Covey of Scaled Quail    
Another Story    
III
The Impossibility of Stasis    
The Past and the Future    
Watching Bulls/ Falling in Love with the Dead    
A Conversation about Text    
Emma     
IV
Nick Spencer, Two Days Dead    
The da Vinci Moon    
A Meditation on Respect    
Meditation    
The Mandala of Now    
A Symposium on Love    
Pristine    
The Sisters    
Talking to each other    
First Light    
Seasons    
Letters from a Lost Language    
Published and Uncollected Poems (1975–2019)
Writing Big    
Fiction    
Long Night    
2 AM, after Dental Surgery    
Graffiti    
Every Way    
Spring Again, Rural Nebraska    
Lost Glasses    
Anna Bites Her Friend Emma at Preschool    
Round/ Square    
Dwell/ April    
Fragments    
Birthday, Red-Tailed Hawk    
Blackberries    
Up All Night    
Abecedarian II    
A Story from Mah-Jongg Club    
The City of Suffering    
Another Story    
New Poems (2020)
Dear God,     
Arms/ Belief    
Beloveds    
Clothes    
Echo    
Formal    
Seasonal    
Looking out the Window, Accordion Polka Accompaniment    
Picked up in the Garden, with a Line from Mary Oliver    
Eva Sings    
Risk    
After the Memoir, Revelations    
“Nobody Teaches Life Anything”    
Policy Discussion, Therapy    
A Life    
Sentences    
The Truth    
A Wedding    
Credo 23    
Failure    
Fort Pond    
Victory Garden, Grass Skirt    
Acknowledgments    
Notes    

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