We are a public forum committed to collective reasoning and the imagination of a more just world. Join today to help us keep the discussion of ideas free and open to everyone, and enjoy member benefits like our quarterly books.
House Held Together by Winds
Harper Perennial, $13.95 (paper)
The house in House Held Together by Winds is both mansion and metaphor. Our docent for each construction is a little girl in a lace collar whose satirical observations of her dominating relatives expose the fears at the root of chauvinism. A grandfather insists upon mathematics drills: “What happens if a fly / tries to land on a railroad train / and the train is moving? / (it was always moving night and day).” In “Penthouse,” a stepfather makes her climb the water tower atop their apartment building: “Below was a blur. / Cars turned the corner / of Madison and Seventy-ninth Street, / waves speeding to a cliff.” This is a house of ill winds: “This was home, and love and country: / him helping himself to another martini . . .” Objects are animated by the inhabitants’ perplexed restlessness. The birds on the wallpaper, the carved animals on the music cabinet, the fur coats in the grandmother’s closet that blew “through [their] nostrils with a Whiff! into the dark” presage the young girl’s choices: conformity to a stifling femininity, imaginative liberation, or madness. She passively resists her wildly narcissistic relatives, learning to “dissemble / and hide [her] intentions . . . to retreat, / before the enemy could guess [her] position.” Forced to perform for the grown-ups (“How many grown-ups there were then”) she eventually learns to sing, full-throated, for herself, taught by the lambs and goats of Achill Island in Ireland: “I had trusted them with my grief, / and they spoke to me: // through the inside walls of childhood / and above, on a green headland.” Inhabiting a house in this pastoral landscape proves as restorative as the earlier setting had been destructive, so that these poems ultimately celebrate the breadth of inspiration: “I pressed down with my larynx, / my tongue arched dark / to keep syllables rounded, / the notes and letters moving and alive.” Readers who allow themselves to be voyeuristically fascinated by the gothic eccentricities of these poems will be moved by the transformation.
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.
in your carpeted office you lay my life down / and say open up to that small room in my sternum.
In his new book, the former Fed chair cuts through economic orthodoxy on central banking. But he fails to reckon deeply with its political consequences.