Leaning toward Emily Dickinson's advice to tell it slant, the poems in Betty Adcock's Slantwise approach our losses, including such disasters as September 11 and the crash of the space shuttle Columbia, through happenings outside the public view—asides, as it were, from the primary moment. The title faintly echoes American slang, as in "wisecrack," which might be applied to poems here that skewer literary critics, human self-regard, and the poet herself. Reflecting also the folk speech of Adcock's native East Texas, where much of her work has been set, the title suggests a middle way among images of rising and falling, tropes that can confound the directions of grief and praise.
From the strangely epic fall of one longleaf pine needle in deep woods to the widening contexts of the Twin Towers' collapse and a spacecraft's deadly descent, from the lyric movement of light out of earthly things to the lyric rise of a dancing arborist and a clowning roustabout, these poems mourn, celebrate, rage, and remember. Slantwise fulfills the hope Adcock once expressed in an interview: "to tell the truth and find that it is music."
from "Little Text"
I may have come for just this,
so long gone I can't remember bare
footlogs across the gar-infested creeks
or the heron thrust up for magic,
in the hollow wingbone.
And the scissortail has cleft this light
with journeys all my distant life.
Under a stranded palmetto
the armadillo's metal is unzipped,
the flesh burst toward that furter
wandering in earth where more
and into air
where memory breathes its midge-cloud.
Betty Adcock is the author of six previous books of poetry and the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, the Poets’ Prize, the North Carolina Medal for Literature, the Texas Institute of Letters Prize for Poetry, the Hanes Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She taught for twenty years at Meredith College and for ten years at the Warren Wilson MFA program for Writers.
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