March 30, 2009

Review by L.J. Sysko

by Lee Upton

New Issues Poetry & Prose
Western Michigan University
1903 W. Michigan Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5463
ISBN 1-930974-72-8 / 978-1-930974-72-2
2007, 81 pp., $14.00

Lee Upton is lucky she is a poet over 40-years-old. If she were any younger, she would have been anointed the Voice of Generation X because her latest book, Undid in the Land of Undone, gives voice to the ambitious ambivalence and outlandish irony of those born between 1965 and 1980. Alas, Upton is more mature, more accomplished, and more poised to speak— full-throated and craftily— the truth as she sees it than any Gen X’er could. And so we are lucky. This is a book for those of us who have lived long enough to look backward and forward with equal parts forbearance and chagrin. Lee Upton’s poems manage the winsome trick of vacillating between wildly diverse subjects and tones—from indictment of others to self-implication, from the wily to the vulnerable, from classical allusion to pop references—the reader cannot escape the sense, while strolling this gallery of Upton’s mid-life masterpieces, that she has entered the mind of an extravagantly intelligent big sister with an ax or two to grind.

Lee Upton is the author of nine books, a published writer of fiction as well as poetry, and the writer-in-residence at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. Undid in the Land of Undone is her fifth book of poetry. She is a recipient of the National Poetry Series Award, the Pushcart Prize, and the Georgia Contemporary Poetry Series Award. For two excellent poems that appear in Undid in the Land of Undone, Upton was presented with awards by The Poetry Society of America in 2005. The Lyric Poetry Award was given for “And though she be but little, she is fierce,” a poem whose title is taken from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Award judge Susan Wheeler wrote of the poem, “It seems to put no foot in the wrong place…and makes sparkling comparisons, both apt and unexpected. Though it be modest, the poem be steel.” The Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award, judged by Mark Doty, was given for “Dickinson’s Day Lilies,” a poem that amplifies the moment in Emily Dickinson’s life when she met her erstwhile editor, Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

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