The Music of Being (Paperback)

The Music of Being By Jean Nordhaus Cover Image

The Music of Being (Paperback)


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Poet Jean Nordhaus distills a lifetime of experience in her ninth collection.

The title of Jean Nordhaus's new collection suggests something light and lyrical - until you read the title poem and find yourself among the corpses in a concentration camp, at which point you understand that while the music of being is often harsh, atonal, dissonant, still we are meant for resolution, "to go on." A lifetime of experience is distilled here, of all the things she recounts having been ("swaddled bundle," "love quake," "gestator") or will go on to be ("a cane dibbler, a doughty dowager," "a whisper / a breath among leaves") in "I Was One". This includes the chance that "Four Visas" might have made all the difference had hers been the family leaving loved ones behind to board "the final train" and lie among the corpses. Even so, she bids farewell to the tragic and troubled prior century with almost jaunty celebration of "your / restless hemlines, / your vaccines / and holocausts, / your trail / of obsolescent maps." One section recounts the death of her husband after long marriage, forcing her to learn a new "Grammar of Grief," but once more she finds perfect words to recall her former life, describing it as "a country / with a language only I speak. // It was a large enough space." Even contemplating her own death, she determines "I mean to grow / a larger, shinier body" and to enter an endless past, "a kingdom crammed / with everything that ever was." So in the end, even if not light these poems indeed are lyrical, filled with the music of being, "whether the voices / hold flowers or flames."

Jean Nordhaus's previous books of poetry include MEMOS FROM THE BROKEN WORLD (Mayapple Press, 2016), My Life in Hiding (Quarterly Review of Literature, 1991), The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn (Milkweed Editions, 2002), and Innocence, winner of the Charles B. Wheeler Award (Ohio State University Press, 2006). She has served as poetry coordinator at the Folger Shakespeare Library, President of Washington Writers' Publishing House, and, for eight years, as Review Editor of Poet Lore. She lives in Washington, DC.
Product Details ISBN: 9781956782530
ISBN-10: 1956782532
Publisher: Broadstone Books
Publication Date: November 30th, 2023
Pages: 80
Language: English