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Unread 03-17-2016, 06:38 PM
Terese Coe Terese Coe is offline
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Location: New York, NY
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Default Reviews of Shot Silk

Many thanks to Editors Rory Waterman and Nick Everett for publishing this review of my book!

Review of Terese Coe’s Shot Silk in New Walk Magazine, UK
By D.A. Prince

This is a collection by a poet who has not only read widely and relishes the challenges posed by language, translation, poetic form, rhyme and rhythm but also understands how essential lightness is to poetry. Few poets have the confidence and mature skills to bring light verse face to face with its opposite but in Shot Silk, her second full collection, Coe makes it look effortlessly easy.

Let’s start with the debts she acknowledges to other poets. There’s Christopher Smart and his Jubilate Agno, ‘Fragment B’ (better known as ‘For I will consider my cat Jeoffrey’) which Coe reworks into praise for her son:

For I will consider my son Shay.
For he is the servant of his Kawasaki and daily working on it.

The poem gains depth as Coe shifts from his motorbike, girlfriend, and ‘e-things’ to considering his qualities:

For when attacked, he will grab the other’s wrists and hold them tightly rather than fight.
For I have seen this twice and was glad of it.
For he prayed to the Buddha as a small child.

Then there’s W.H. Auden’s ‘Letter to Lord Byron’, which in Coe’s hands becomes
‘Letter to Anton Chekhov’, using the same fluid rime royal that Auden employed:

Your plays still plumb the interplay between
words and silence, plotlessness and plot
in which you show an uneventful scene
composed entirely of what was not
to be—the spent emotion scattershot
around the stage in wraiths of lost pretension,
and meaning haunted by the fourth dimension.

This demonstrates something of Coe’s skill in the interplay of ‘light’ and more serious themes. Pastiche is only one of her techniques: she uses a larger variety of form than is usual in contemporary collections, and not simply for the sake of it but because the form she chooses is an essential element in the poem. In ‘Rondeau for Rhina’ she uses an unfashionable form in praise of Rhina Espaillat, one of the US’s most accomplished poets, in a fine balance of subject and form:

Apollo gives his luminosity
to one who tempers rhyme with remedy,
a maverick in the home and yet a mate,
a universal poet whose estate
is balance, measure, singularity;

She can rework a villanelle to her own ends; rhyme—in couplets and quatrains and whether full-rhyme or half-rhyme is never forced but rises naturally in each line. When she uses the sonnet, the form sits underneath the subject, not flaunting its own identity but contributing to the shape of thought contained in its fourteen lines. She can make a short poem under ten lines punch well beyond its length. She can write a good list poem: ‘Seeing Matisse’ itemises in four rhymed quatrains the motifs that appear across a range of his paintings:

Ballooning sleeves, embroideries,
odalisque citrine,
arabesque anemones,
blooming crepe de chine

‘Tooth and Claw’ uses the octave of the sonnet to list ways of killing, while the sestet punches home the reasons for slaughter: ‘For envy, power, greed, for shackled slaves, / for access to the sea and concubines.’ All of this is skill of a high order that doesn’t show off: it’s embedded in her creative process.

The collection is in two sections: first are ‘Poems’ (forty-four, ranging in subject over her friendships, travels, literature, and observations on life), and then we find ‘Variations’ (her versions of Pierre de Ronsard, Heine, Rilke, and Borges), which sympathetically bring the originals into the twenty-first century. For Ronsard this means responding to his robust humour and strong rhyme with her own. Take the opening of ‘Ode to Jacques de Rubampré’:

Since soon I shall be dead asleep
Beyond the River Styx,
What use is it to wade knee-deep
In Homer’s little tricks?

She is drawn to other poets when they write about death, reflecting her own acceptance of the inevitable which ‘Poems’ has already revealed. Her version of Heine’s ‘Where’ is in a quiet, unsentimental register; ‘They’ has a timeless sadness in its final, monosyllabic quatrain:

But she who did the most
to torture, vex, and grieve me
has never hated me,
and she has never loved me.

The final variation—‘1964’, after Jorge Luis Borges—is the best translation of this poem I’ve seen, and one that pulls together many of Coe’s own themes. I’ve praised her use of lightness, but it is always a lightness in the face of death; in ‘1964’ the lightness is present only as an easy, everyday vocabulary, something that makes the ending of life into a familiar and untroubling emotion: ‘Already the world has no magic. They have left / you’; ‘That useless quirk that turns me / to the South, to a certain door, to a certain corner.’ The poem’s confronting of loss of happiness is curiously soothing, and makes for a fitting conclusion.

Terese Coe has a breadth of human understanding and the technical skill to match it, and Shot Silk is an exceptional collection.

Issue 11, Autumn/Winter 2015
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Unread 03-18-2016, 08:59 AM
Ed Shacklee's Avatar
Ed Shacklee Ed Shacklee is offline
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Congratulations, Terese -- that's a fine review, by D.A. Prince, no less, with a generous sampling of verse. Just to mention one that stands out, the slice from the Chekhov poem will win you readers by itself, I'd guess, and leave some of us thinking, "I wish I'd written that."


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Unread 03-18-2016, 09:58 AM
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Michael F Michael F is offline
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Just what Ed said.

From elsewhere on this board, I've compiled a list of contemporary poets that I want to read soon. I've added you to that list.
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Unread 03-19-2016, 07:51 PM
Terese Coe Terese Coe is offline
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Thanks very much, Ed and Michael. Hope you're both right about the Chekhov stanza winning readers, and that you enjoy the entire poem when you see it.
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Unread 03-25-2016, 07:02 AM
Terese Coe Terese Coe is offline
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Location: New York, NY
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For those of you who missed it, Mike Juster wrote a review of Shot Silk earlier, for Angle:

It includes a brief history of the 'New Formalist' movement beginning in 1990 with Bill Baer's founding of The Formalist.

(Scroll down to p. 55.)

Here's a video clip of my reading of one of the Ronsard translations, introduced by Wendy Sloan:

Last edited by Terese Coe; 03-25-2016 at 07:22 AM.
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Unread 03-25-2016, 08:51 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
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Those are both excellent reviews that make me want to read the book. I look forward to seeing the rest of the poems.

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Unread 03-28-2016, 11:34 AM
Terese Coe Terese Coe is offline
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Thanks, Susan! Will send today.
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Unread 03-28-2016, 07:25 PM
Wendy Sloan Wendy Sloan is offline
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Default Shot Silk Review

Terrific reviews, Terese.
And well deserved ...
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Unread 03-29-2016, 07:13 PM
Chris O'Carroll Chris O'Carroll is offline
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Posts: 1,781

You are a class act, Terese, and so is D.A. Prince. I'm not surprised she has such a positive (and such an intelligent!) response to your poems.
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Unread 03-31-2016, 10:41 PM
Terese Coe Terese Coe is offline
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Location: New York, NY
Posts: 7,485

Thanks for the kind thoughts, Wendy and Chris! Couldn't agree more about Ms. Prince's intelligence, Chris, though I've never met or conversed with her. If anyone here knows her, please convey my deep gratitude. She gave me a valuable lesson about my work, a purpose that graces the best of critique.
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