Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Maryann Corbett, "Breath Control"

Maryann Corbett’s first collection is about control: both metrical control and measure and the near-silence of emotional control required of men and women at midlife, between the departures of children from home and of aging parents from the world. The poems in this book make use of craft and containment to tackle fears, confront memories, and celebrate beauty and affection.

“Although every section touches me and keeps calling me back, I think the last two in the book--where the tone darkens and the reach widens--contain the poems I already treasure as if I had known them for years.”--Rhina Espaillat

“Corbett is not just playing with words (not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld said) but thinking and asking questions about things like class, ethnicity (as the daughter of Italian immigrants), the expanding universe, terrorism, Christianity... and while she's a middle-class suburbanite (as am I), she always comes at things with a broad perspective, entirely free of that kind of breezy complacency you often see in middle-class poets who are always writing about their vacations in Venice and whatnot. So when she writes about paying for her daughter's college tuition, it's with gratitude and an acute awareness of her parents' and grandparents' struggle to break into the middle class so as to make this moment possible, and of others' continuing struggles. And when she writes about the bland garden statue of St. Francis it's with an awareness that the real saint was a subversive who ministered to outsiders. I could go on and on, and I haven't even talked about technique. She's formally dextrous and all that, but what I like most is her poetry's thoughtfulness and humanity.”--Rose Kelleher, 2008 winner of the Anthony Hecht Prize.

“I've been following Maryann Corbett's writing for years now -- in numerous journals as well as in online poetry workshops—and I'm delighted to see this collection at last. Corbett is a master of form. And by that I mean not merely able to write a sonnet or a pantoum, not merely able to turn out sapphic stanzas or Anglo-Saxon verse forms — but to turn received forms to her own purposes, intelligently and artfully. She makes these forms her own and uses them to elevate, to lend dignity and grace to her subject matter...”--Antonia Clark

“Throughout, one feels in close proximity to both the narrator (who in turn, more often than not, seems close to being the poet herself) as well as the other characters who inhabit her poems; close enough, indeed, to hear them breathe. They are real people, often in quiet situations, engaged with the minutiƦ of daily life which are elevated in significance by Corbett’s transparent narration. This is the poetry of life as lived and reflected upon, rather than as detachedly observed and mythologised, and the language is that of a poet who is apparently holding a greater force in check.”--Philip Quinlan

“It's said that the finest books of poetry should never be read in one sitting, but savored for weeks, a poem at a time--an idea that had always sounded sensible to me until the night I first opened Maryann Corbett's stunning new collection, Breath Control. The concluding lines of virtually every one of these poignant, perceptive, exquisitely formed poems catapulted me to the next, and I didn't quit reading until four in the morning.
Now that I've finished the book--still amazed at the poet's skill--I'll be starting over, in order to savor again, among others, the likes of 'Transaction' (never has a bill for college tuition reverberated like this), 'The Birds of Ancient Battlefields Visit the Suburbs', exquisitely rendered in Old English accentual meter, "Collision Course", a many-layered poem about a relationship, told so honestly and directly that it makes composing in strict sapphic stanzas look easy. Here, without question, is a book-- and a poet--to be genuinely grateful for.”-- Marilyn L. Taylor, Wisconsin Poet Laureate, 2009-2010

“Many of the poems are autobiographical but never so much about the poet as about the lessons and fears which we all may encounter during our own lives. Her deceptively gentle voice leads the reader through complex terrors and anxieties. She frequently uses antique meters to emphasise or satirise the timelessness of human behaviour.”--Janet Kenny

"Breath Control has wit without meanness, warmth without sentimentality, and craft without pretension. Maryann Corbett's poems are subtle joys."--A. M. Juster

"...There is a centeredness and a serenity in her work that is unsurpassed by any living writer of my acquaintance."--Timothy Murphy

“This is a remarkable and beautiful collection, both these attributes rooted in its underlying honesty. A wry and generous vision informs the poems, which are rooted in the real world and soundly crafted out of real language, grammatical and accessible, with bright scholarship and unselfconscious skill....This book will prove a lasting gift to the world, though I feel obliged to ensure that it carries a clear warning. The contents may affect the heart in ways that could prove permanent."--Ann Drysdale

“Corbett shows her technical mastery again and again in this collection. She pulls off a ghazal, blank verse, a sonnet, accentual Anglo-Saxon meters, tricky ballads, and rhyme forms I do not know if she learned or created, including a double abcedarian. She is by turns lofty, goofy, sardonic, mild, idyllic, and keen.”--Judy Swann

“...a stunner. The range of subjects, styles, and forms is astonishing, including some classical and Anglo-Saxon forms one rarely encounters in contemporary poetry, but with no whiff of the antiquarian about them. Whatever one may think of the forms, which are expertly handled, the content is firmly anchored in daily experience, filtered through a mind that is both feeling the emotions of personal involvement and connecting them to art, literature, music, astronomy, history, and everything else.”

Maryann Corbett grew up in McLean, Virginia. She holds a doctorate in English from the University of Minnesota and is the author of Breath Control (David Robert Books, 2012), Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter (Able Muse Press, just out) and the chapbooks Gardening in a Time of War (Pudding House) and Dissonance (Scienter Press). Her writing has appeared in River Styx, Atlanta Review, Rattle e-issues, The Evansville Review, Measure, Literary Imagination, The Dark Horse, Mezzo Cammin, Linebreak, Subtropics, and many other journals in print and online. Her poems have have won the Lyric Memorial Award and the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and works for the Minnesota Legislature. She is married to John Corbett, a teacher of statistics and mathematics, and they have two grown children.

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