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Rising Venus: Poems
By Kelly Cherry
LSU Press, 2002
ISBN: 0-8071-2767-1



After reading Rising Venus, David R. Slavitt calls Kelly Cherry "one of the best dozen or so poets writing in America .... Work like hers is nothing less than a national treasure."

Rising Venus, Cherry's sixth collection of poetry, is her most extraordinary to date.  The poems delve into the women's experience with poignancy and humor. While the poet's persona may feel anguished or desperate, like Venus, she continues to rise, finding her destiny.

In the opening poem, "Adult Ed. 101 : Basic Home Repair for Single Women," the poet's love for wordplay and pun is in evidence. In the first stanza, she enumerates what everyone needs in "the tool box" including:

"...Hacksaw and coping saw (coping saw!)
caulking gun
screwdrivers (with orange juice) ---" .

Blending memories of old lovers with household tasks as she learns to hang drywall, she wryly acknowledges ....

"Studs should be sixteen inches apart
but are often fewer and farther between
and let's face it, you may have seen your last stud.
In that case, use an anchor
in plaster or drywall..."

Cherry explores the stages of a woman's life as daughter, single woman, lover, wife, mother, working woman, mentor, and artist. The persona's realization she's "Becoming My Mother" should be familiar to all -- "And suddenly it's her voice I'm speaking/ with, it's her look that's in my eye ..../"

She's unafraid to confront emotional turbulence. In the title poem, the woman in this collection has confronted her demons and "survives, strong and free,/engendering her own destiny."

It's hard to imagine not returning to the poems in this collection again and again for their beauty, honesty, and humanity.


Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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