With Rising Venus Kelly Cherry reveals the fearsome beauty, vulnerability, and complexity of women’s experience. Cherry masterfully re-creates the full spectrum of the female psyche, from looming madness to harrowing self-knowledge made bearable, even exhilarating, through the poet’s remarkable range and skill.
The book’s journey is an ascension from mysterious and overwhelming depths of despair and anguish to a place of peace and perspective. Probing the emotional extremes of woman’s life as daughter, mother, wife, lover, and working woman, poems like “Lady Macbeth on the Psych Ward” open a frightening chasm beneath the reader, yet steady and reassure with the bravura of poetic compression.
A passionate turbulence gives way to acute and delicate observations on art and myth and strikingly original insights into tradition and context. Thus, in “Sunrise,” “A sky as blue as if it were / The backdrop for a Renaissance / View of the Ascension” becomes a representation of that miracle, itself figured by the miracle of dawn. The collection’s title poem revises the classic view of Venus to speak of another miraculous ascension, a woman’s hard-earned rise into her own sense of self: “Myth is the portal / through which we pass, / becoming human at last, / rising out of dream / and desire to realms / of reality, where love, / a woman, by Jove, / survives, strong and free, / engendering her own destiny.”
Kelly Cherry has previously published twenty books of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, nine chapbooks, and translations of two classical plays. She is Eudora Welty Professor Emerita of English and Evjue-Bascom Professor Emerita in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She and her husband live in Virginia.
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