Before It's Light CoverBEFORE IT'S LIGHT

by LynLifshin

The 1997 Black Sparrow publication of Lyn Lifshin's selected poems, Cold Comfort, brought to national attention, as Small Press reviewer Len Fulton put it, "a poet of substance, range and invention," one who "everywhere roots for that stripped piece of a life -- usually her own -- that yields the bare emotional atom."

The direct, spare, largely autobiographical poems in this generous new collecton evoke memories of an unlovely girlhood ("longing to be what every man / would rush to take the gum out of / his mouth to whistle for"); a stormy marriage ("each separation I lost 7-10 pounds "); self-unsparing love affairs ("we were / like drunks, dying / a little more / every time"); the pain of losing a mother ("holding her while / she moans my hands are / cold, my hair a whip"); the struggle to regain self-sufficiency after bad relationships ("some of / us need to regrow claws, survive / on prey, give up safeness").

And as always, Lifshin's poetry trawls deep waters of submerged passion beneath the surface of everyday life, coming up with a teeming glistening catch.

Moving By Touch

that afternoon an
unreal amber
light 4 o'clock the
quietness of
oil February blue
bowls full of
oranges we were
spreading honey, butter
on new bread our
skin nearly touching
Even the dark wood glowed


But Instead Has Gone Underground

A woman goes into the subway,
and for what reason
disappears behind rails
and is never heard from again.
We don't understand this.
She could have gone to the museum,
had cappuccino with a lover.
But instead has gone down the
escalator, without i.d., or
even a ticket and not 
for clothes or flowers. It was
a grey humid day,
very much like today.
It was today. Now you might
imagine I'm that woman, it 
seems there are reasons.
But listen, I don't live
anywhere near that metro stop
and who I am is already
camouflaged behind
velvet and leather

Reader comments from Barnes & Noble Website:

"I thought it would be impossible for Lyn Lifshin to produce a stronger book than Cold Comfort -- but she did it with Before It's Light. She never ceases to amaze me with her literary punch You will not be sorry you purchased this book."

"Lyn Lifshin writes the kind of poetry that puts me on the edge of my chair. The honesty and candour of her stark but moving poems makes me feel as if I'm being interrogated under strobe lights. And yet I can't put the poems down until I've devoured them."

"An outstanding collection. Ms. Lifshin weaves words with extraordinary skill. She de-mythologizes the American Myth like no other."

"Lyn Lifshin has done it again; each time she comes out with a new book of poems, you wonder if she'll ever stop surpassing herself. And she doesn't stop. Her latest book of poems covers an emotional landscape that ranges from the innocence of a New England childhood, the excesses of love and the horrors of the Nazi deathcamps. And between times, she can be uproariously funny as well. Lyn Lifshin's is a major voice in American letters."

"Lyn Lifshin is, indeed, the Mephistopheles of American Literature. She entertains a deep knowledge of the depths and the heights of experience. In 'Before It's Light' Lifshin exposes the reader to the illimitability that human life can endure, and even beyond. Lifshin is the Shakespeare of our millennium!"

© 1999, Black Sparrow Press, Santa Rosa, CA
Approximately 250 pages.

ISBN 1-57423-114-6 (paper edition)  $16.00
ISBN 1-57423-115-4 (cloth trade edition)  $27.50
ISBN 1-57423-116-2 (signed cloth edition)  $35.00