Sunday, May 30, 2010

Recommended Poet: Alexandra Teague

Alexandra Teague, Mortal Geography.  New York: Persea Books, 2010.  Winner of the 2009 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize in Poetry.  88 pp. $15.

In poems about teaching English to immigrant students, Alexandra Teague beautifully explores the intersection between language and experience. In my favorite poem from her debut collection, "English Fundamentals," Teague observes a student diagramming sentences with colored markers.  She writes: "She has given me/grammar as a stained glass window..." Where another poet might compose an ars poetica, Teague creates an ars grammatica, seeing significance of grammar as a means of fashioning meaning and beauty out of one's experience.

She also writes about relationships, about art (Georgia O'Keefe, Frida Kahlo and Edward Hopper all inspire her poetry), and about the human body.  What she knows, and what her poetry skillfully conveys, is that there is more than one way of looking at anything—even a poem. One poem is titled "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Poem"—but every poem seems to offer alternate paths to meaning.  In "Two Drafts Written After a Fight," for instance, the poet shows how the placement of punctuation, a slight change of emphasis but not of wording, can change the meaning of a poem entirely.  

I first heard of Alexandra Teague on Poetry Daily, where I read her poem "Adjectives of Order." It was like hearing a really great song on the radio and wanting to buy the entire album. More of her poems can be read online at her website, but I recommend finding a copy of her book so you can explore more of her "mortal geography." 

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