"Hum" is the title work of Ann Lauterbach's 2005 poetry collection published by Penguin. The poem is deceptively simple; it is composed of short lines, everyday words, and seemingly innocuous images of the sky and weather. Through its circuitous framework and tangible sense of bewilderment, however, "Hum" presents a visceral eyewitness reaction to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, on the World Trade Center, in New York City, where Lauterbach then lived and worked.
The poem is composed of twenty-seven couplets, or two-line stanzas, full of repeated words and phrases. "Beautiful," "tomorrow," "weep," "weather," "yesterday," and "here" are all echoed multiple times, giving the poem a tone of sorrow and a theme of temporal dislocation. "Hum" is written in free-verse style, meaning that its lines do not rhyme and do not have a consistent meter, or rhythm. In a postmodernist style, the images and phrases are fragmentary and often not meant to be taken literally. In a work such as this, the poet relies on the reader to fill in details based on his or her own experiences.
Lauterbach is often considered a member of the New York School of poets, a loose-knit group working primarily in Manhattan after 1950, whose work is influenced by the visual arts, especially abstract expressionism. This group includes such poets as John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, and James Schuyler, and their work is often as much about the process of writing as about the result. Like many abstract expressionist paintings, whose meanings can be difficult to decipher on the basis of their titles and images alone, "Hum" does not refer to the tragedy of the terrorist attacks directly, nor does it seek to explain or even mention the "hum" of the title.
Ann Lauterbach was born on September 28, 1942, in New York City. Both of her parents were active in leftist politics. Her father was a reporter for Life magazine and head of the Moscow bureau of Time magazine during World War II. He died of polio when Lauterbach was eight, after which her mother retreated into alcoholism. These early events profoundly affected Lauterbach; she came to see poetry and art as ways of lending meaning to her life and connecting with other people. Toward that end, she attended the High School of Music and Art in New York City, from which she graduated in 1960. After earning an English degree from the University of Wisconsin and spending a year as a graduate student at Columbia University, she moved to London, where she immersed herself in the vibrant art scene of the late 1960s. There, her crowning triumph was organizing a poetry conference featuring John Ashbery, who even then was considered a titan of the poetry world, as the keynote speaker. Lauterbach credits Ashbery as being a major influence on her work.
After seven years in England, Lauterbach returned to the United States in 1974 and worked at a series of art galleries in New York's up-and-coming Soho district. In those days, artists, poets, and musicians populated the same countercultural milieu. Lauterbach's poetry was especially influenced by visual artists, particularly the abstract expressionists, whose nonrepresentational paintings often became the inspiration for her poems. In 1979, she published her first significant book of poetry, Many Times, but Then, which was well received by critics.
In addition to three residencies at the prestigious Yaddo writers' community in the 1980s, Lauterbach also received a Guggenheim Fellowship and grants from the Ingram Merrill Foundation and the New York State Council for the Arts. In 1989, she became the Theodore Goodman Professor of Creative Writing at City College at the City University of New York, and in 1993 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. Her other poetry collections include Sacred Weather (1984), Before Recollection (1987), Clamor (1991), and On a Stair (1997). In 2005, she published The Night Sky: Writings on the Poetics of Experience, a collection of essays on contemporary poetry that she wrote in the late 1990s for the American Poetry Review. The same year, she also published Hum, a collection of poems inspired by art, music, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which a critic for Publishers Weekly said reads like "a chorus of angels."
The first line of the poem, "The days are beautiful," is immediately repeated as the second line—and, in fact, the line appears a total of nine times; five of those repetitions come within the first fourteen lines. This type of repetition is called anaphora and usually serves to underscore a point the narrator wants to make. In the most literal sense, "The days are beautiful" could refer to the weather in New York on September 11, 2001, which was unusually warm and sunny.
In the second stanza, the narrator's framework becomes circuitous. She states, "I know what days are," perhaps calling the word "beautiful" to the mind of the reader, but then states, "The other is weather," and the reader is given no clue as to what "the other" is referring. At this point, the reader is required to bring his or her own imagination into the poem. Also, the third line, "I know what days are," sets up another anaphoric parallel, with the fifth line, "I know what weather is."
The fourth stanza introduces new words and images: "Things are incidental. / Someone is weeping." "Things," like "other," is entirely nonspecific and represents another opportunity for the reader to overlay his or her own ideas onto the poem. Similarly, the reader is not told who is weeping. As such, the precise "things" and "someone" may be seen as of secondary importance. The next line, on the other hand, reveals that the narrator is herself weeping "for the incidental." Then, the first line of the poem is repeated.
The sixth stanza introduces the theme of time with the question, "Where is tomorrow?" The next line is, "Everyone will weep." Thus, in three successive stanzas the narrator has related that someone is weeping, she herself is weeping, and everyone will be weeping. That is, the act of weeping is to a certain extent universal. The seventh and eighth stanzas begin with the same line: "Tomorrow was yesterday." Here, the narrator sustains her puzzlelike framework with even more anaphora. In the eighth stanza, in fact, the narrator refers to yesterday, tomorrow, and today, deepening the focus on shifting perceptions of time. With the ninth stanza, "The sound of the weather / is everyone weeping"—the first stanza in which the two lines of the couplet constitute a single sentence—the previously introduced ideas and sorrowful tone of the poem are more firmly established.
The universality of the unnamed cause of the weeping is indicated in the tenth stanza: "Everyone is incidental. / Everyone weeps." The first of those lines could be literally understood to mean that every individual is subject to the forces of chance, while the second may indicate that these forces can cause great sadness. The next stanza returns to the issue of passing time, asserting that today's tears will extinguish tomorrow, conveying a certain hopelessness.
The twelfth stanza returns to weather imagery: "The rain is ashes. / The days are beautiful." The two lines create a dissonant image. Raining ashes would seem to be at odds with beautiful days. With the next lines, "The rain falls down. / The sound is falling," the imagery becomes more complex. Rain, ashes, and sound are all falling. More ominously, line 27 states, "The sky is a cloud." Together, these lines create an image of a cloud filled with rain, ashes, and sound. The narrator then becomes more specific, stating in line 29, "The sky is dust." The image of a sky filled with dust, ashes, rain, and the sound of mass weeping undoubtedly stirs negative feelings in the reader. The narrator, meanwhile, still refrains from directly naming what she sees, instead presenting only fragmentary images.
Lines 30 and 31 are the same: "The weather is yesterday." This is something of an inversion of line 16, "Today is weather." Line 32 returns to the sound of weeping, briefly, before the narrator asks her second question in line 33, as if underscoring a certain confusion: "What is this dust?" Stanza 18 provides the first concrete clue to the subject of the poem: "The days are beautiful. / The towers are yesterday." That second line may be read as another way of stating that the towers, which are given no physical description, no longer exist.
The narrator then declares in line 37, "The towers are incidental," harking back to lines 7 and 19, in which "things" and "everyone" are also described as incidental, and line 9, "I weep for the incidental." The next line is another question, a companion to line 33: "What are these ashes?" The repetition of the words "ashes" and "dust" is reminiscent of the common incantation of Christian burial rites, as written in the Book of Common Prayer, "ashes to ashes, dust to dust," which in turn was inspired by Genesis 3:19: "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return." As such, the notion of death, not explicitly mentioned, may also be called to mind.
In the last section of the poem, the narrator abruptly switches focus. Gone is concern with time, as the words "yesterday," "today," and "tomorrow" do not again appear. Instead, each stanza, in a continuation of the poem's reliance on anaphora for dramatic effect, begins with the word "here." These last eight stanzas present a catalog of images that are abstract and expressionist in their randomness. The narrator speaks of a robe, books, and stones, and in the context of the poem, all of these objects have undergone some transformation, even as they are still "here." The words are "retired to their books," while the stones are "loosed from their settings."
The last three stanzas present three final ambiguous images. "Here is the place / where the sun came up" gives particular importance to the sun's coming up on one particular occasion in one particular place. Stanza 26, "Here is a season / dry in the fireplace," implies the burning up of an entire season. In view of earlier references, the final lines call to mind burning and death on the one hand, light and beauty on the other: "Here are the ashes. / The days are beautiful."
Passage of Time
Lauterbach's repetition of the words "yesterday," "today," and "tomorrow" make the passage of time a major theme in "Hum." The puzzlelike framework in which the terms are placed underscores the sense of dislocation the narrator must be feeling. At various points, she states, "Tomorrow was yesterday" and "The towers are yesterday." The first statement implies that the day before had been a fateful "tomorrow"—a day whose events had been long in coming. Yesterday, also, the towers existed. Yesterday things were different and perhaps more hopeful. Furthermore, "The tears of today / will put out tomorrow." That is, the future that once existed for many—including those who perished in the September 11 terrorist attacks as well as their family and friends—has been replaced by grief. Also, the statement "Today is weather" is something of a neutral revision of the repeated statement "The days are beautiful." The sense of beauty has been replaced by the valueless term "weather." In effect, yesterday held hope, today holds only weeping, and tomorrow has been extinguished.
Topics For Further Study
- In the front matter of Hum, Lauterbach includes a quote from Shakespeare's play King Lear: "What, art mad? A man may see how this world goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears" (act 4, scene 6). Go to a busy place and "look with your ears"; that is, close your eyes and listen to the surrounding sounds for at least ten minutes (or take a tape recorder and listen later). Did you hear anything that you might not have heard had your eyes been open? Write a short essay on what you "saw" when you were listening and relate your experience to Lauterbach's "Hum."
- If you did not know that "Hum" was about the tragedy of September 11, do you think you would have deduced as much? Using pictures from magazines and newspapers, assemble a collage based on the images Lauterbach evokes in her poem. Present your collage to the class and lead a discussion about the kinds of feelings your collage brings to mind, noting whether they are similar to or different from Lauterbach's themes in "Hum."
- Many of Lauterbach's poems are inspired by specific paintings or musical compositions. Pick one of your favorite songs or works of art and write a poem about it. Then write a companion essay on how your words were influenced by the subject you chose.
- Read other poems inspired by the terrorist attacks of September 11. Write an essay describing the images and language of these poems and compare and contrast them with Lauterbach's "Hum."
- Lauterbach gave a speech on February 12, 2003, at a symposium called "Poems Not Fit for the White House," which was organized to protest the cancellation of a White House poetry event because many of the guests opposed the war in Iraq and had written protest poems to present at the event. "Perhaps poets come to the fore at such times," Lauterbach said in her speech, which was reprinted in an article by Joshua Clover in the Village Voice, "because we already live at the margins, we represent a kind of powerless power, and maybe people become interested in this." Research news articles of this event and use them as the basis for a classroom debate. Prepare and deliver a short speech explaining whether or not you believe the poets were right to foster such controversy.
Air and Sky
Many of the narrator's words in "Hum" relate either directly or indirectly to the air and sky. The word "weather" itself appears seven times; also appearing multiple times are the words "rain," "sky," and "cloud." Lauterbach states directly that the weather is, variously, "other," "today," "the sound of … weeping," "yesterday," and "nothing." The "towers" themselves indirectly reference air and sky; the World Trade Center's twin towers, at 110 stories each, were the tallest buildings in the world when they opened in 1973. They were an integral part of the New York skyline, visible from myriad locations both inside and outside Manhattan. Through the narrator's free association of ideas, the reader gets the sense that the towers were in fact part of the sky. The ominous sense of tragedy in "Hum" comes, in part, from the narrator's observations that sounds, ashes, and dust are all falling from the sky.
"The days are beautiful" is one of the most enigmatic lines of "Hum," in addition to being its most frequent, appearing as both the first and last lines and seven other times in between. Its juxtaposition with the foreboding images of ashes, dust, and the sounds of everyone weeping create a stark discordance, which further results in a mood of a world off-kilter and out of synchronization. The narrator seems to be in a state of incomprehension, as if she cannot make sense of what is happening. Her insistence that "the days are beautiful," which is reinforced by her declaration "I know what days are," is upended by the sounds of weeping. The narrator herself is weeping "for the incidental," which, though unstated, might refer to the beautiful days; beauty is as fleeting and elusive as time in "Hum."
"Ashes" and "dust," by definition, conjure images of disintegration. The falling rain, the falling sound, and the statement that "the towers are yesterday" all further contribute to that theme. "The sky is dust" and "Here are the ashes," along with the narrator's concern with weeping, tears, and the loss of tomorrow, indicate that the disintegration is both physical and metaphorical.
A lamentation is a song or poem expressing sorrow over a loss, particularly the death of a loved one. Although Lauterbach does not directly address the loss of any one person, her choice of words and the concatenation of images lend to the eulogizing effects of the poem. The narrator mentions that she weeps and that "everyone will weep." She weeps, in particular, for the incidental, which, as defined in the poem, includes "things," "everyone," and "the towers."
The narrator's use of the words "ashes" and "dust" in the questions, "What is this dust?" and "What are these ashes?" indicate her incomprehension of the tragedy. Those familiar with the images of the World Trade Center's collapse will recognize Lauterbach's words as literal; the sky over Manhattan was indeed filled with ash and debris for days, as the rubble smoldered in the aftermath of the attacks. As a lamentation, the terms bring to mind the words of the Christian burial rite, as written in the Book of Common Prayer: "earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." These words conjure images of solemn ceremony and the memorializing of the dead. Many of those who died in the World Trade Center literally became the dust and ashes that fell from the sky.
Abstract imagery is a literary device favored by the New York School of poets, who, again, were influenced by the visual arts, especially the abstract expressionism of such artists as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Their poems incorporate fragmentary, or incomplete, images to achieve a "painterly" style. Indeed, with their phrases and disparate words, they emulate the way artists can use color and brushstrokes, rather than representational depictions of objects, to evoke meaning. Abstract images are those that do not overtly appear to make sense or relate to the subject at hand. "Here is the robe / that smells of the night" presents such an image in "Hum." These words have little apparent relation to the poem's topic and represent an invitation for readers to bring their own ideas and interpretations to a work. In such a way, the artist creates a sort of dialogue between the poet and the reader. By using cryptic language and nonlinear frameworks, Lauterbach, like many other poets of the New York School, seeks to actively engage readers in endowing her poems with meaning.
Language poetry, sometimes written as "L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E" poetry, in reference to the magazine that bore that name, evolved in the 1970s, when many poets became more concerned with the process of arranging words than with the meanings of the words themselves. As influenced by the modernist prose of Gertrude Stein, the objectivist poet Louis Zukofsky, and the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (who proposed that language was itself a game), the Language poets spread their influence through such journals as This magazine and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Magazine. In "Hum," the stanza "I know what days are. / The other is weather" both follows and precedes lines with the words "days" and "weather." This focus on simple words is reminiscent of Stein's famous line "Rose is a rose is a rose" and serves to break down the reader's expectations based on literal interpretations of the words "days" and "weather."
The most notable feature of "Hum" is its repetition. Like a painter who chooses a palette made up of only a few colors, Lauterbach establishes the mood of "Hum" by choosing a palette of words that she arranges in different combinations in order to achieve a particular mood. "Days" appears ten times, "beautiful" nine times, and "here" eight times. Other words repeated multiple times include "tomorrow," "today," "yesterday," "sky," "rain," "weep," "ashes," and "dust." In addition, several lines are repeated in their entirety. "The days are beautiful" appears nine times; "Tomorrow was yesterday" appears twice. This repetition emphasizes words that the author deems important. The repetitions fall mainly into two categories: words representing time and place ("here," "yesterday," "today," and "tomorrow") and words evoking imagery of nature and destruction ("weep," "ashes," "dust," "rain," "sky," and "fall"). Collectively, these repeated words create images that are at once ethereal, ominous, and transient, suggesting the narrator's sense of unease and sadness and her shifting perceptions of reality. Ultimately, the line "The days are beautiful" may serve as an example of irony, as if the narrator repeats the phrase in order to reassure herself of something she wishes to be true, despite the evidence of destruction that surrounds her; also, in ending the poem, the line may be meant to evoke the sense of rebirth and renewal that, however distant, might follow any loss.
Anaphora refers to the practice of repeating the same word or phrase at the beginning of several lines of a poem. The repetition of "The days are beautiful" is an example of anaphora, even though the words constitute an entire line. "The sky is a cloud" is echoed two lines later in "The sky is dust," and "The rain is ashes" is followed by "The rain falls down." This repetition serves to alert the reader that the sky and rain in question are of great importance. As a cloud, the sky becomes part of the poem's weather imagery; as dust, it becomes part of the poem's imagery of destruction. The narrator's sense of shifting time is signaled in the repeated lines "Tomorrow was yesterday" and "The weather is yesterday." The poem's third section is notable for its sharp diversion to anaphora that concerns the present place, "here," which is repeated at the beginning of each of the final eight stanzas, rather than "tomorrow" or "yesterday." This anaphora suggests that the narrator is taking stock of her surroundings in order to make sense of what has happened.
Lauterbach's writing, including "Hum," is firmly grounded in the postmodern tradition. Postmodernism evolved primarily after World War II, when writers and artists declined to restrict themselves to the confines of form and structure that had defined artistic expression in previous generations. By definition, postmodernism is a continuation of modernism, which was itself a primarily twentieth-century artistic movement that influenced music, literature, and the visual arts by challenging accepted cultural norms. In terms of poetry, modernism was marked by the work of W. H. Auden, one of Lauterbach's acknowledged influences. The postmodernists continued to develop the avant garde in the arts by becoming even more experimental in their work.
Many postmodernists created works of music, poetry, and painting that were deemed "minimalist" because of their stripped-down, elemental style. In music, the postmodernist composer John Cage created a composition that does not require any instrument to play a single note. "Color field" painters such as Mark Rothko created large canvases made up of solid squares of single colors, and writers such as Raymond Carver penned stories in which meaning is derived from what does not happen or from what happens in multiple ways. Lauterbach's poems, including "Hum," can be considered postmodernist because of her frequent use of repetition, short lines, simple language, and fragmentary images.
The Impact of September 11
On the morning of September 11, 2001, almost three thousand people died in near-simultaneous terrorist attacks in which four domestic passenger airplanes were hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center, in New York; the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia; and a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The country, and indeed the world, was stunned by the events, which marked the first time the United States had been attacked on its home soil since Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. Unlike Pearl Harbor, however, millions of people saw much of the events of September 11 on live television, thus themselves witnessing the enormity and severity of the attacks and the loss of innocent lives. Collectively, the raw emotions evoked by the attacks engendered an unprecedented feeling of national mourning. This feeling of overwhelming disquietude is what Lauterbach explores in "Hum," wherein "everyone weeps," and "the towers are incidental."
Lauterbach, who was then living and working in New York City, first published "Hum" in 2005, four years after the terrorist attacks took place and the subsequent so-called war on terror, as led by the United States, had become mired in political controversy. However, "Hum" is not concerned with the perpetrators of the attacks or with how the nation responded; rather, Lauterbach focuses solely on an individual's visceral reaction to a sky filled with ashes. Many artists and poets created works in response to these attacks. The philosopher Arthur C. Danto, in an essay published in ArtNet magazine, writes of the possibility of the art world's responding to the tragedy:
By day's end the city was transformed into a ritual precinct, dense with improvised sites of mourning. I thought at the time that artists, had they tried to do something in response to 9/11, could not have done better than the anonymous shrine-makers who found ways of expressing the common mood and feeling of those days, in ways that everyone instantly understood.
In the years that followed, the images and memory of September 11, 2001, became part of the American consciousness and permeated all aspects of society. One year later, An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind: Poets on 9/11, an anthology of poems inspired by the disaster, was published by Regent Press, while Poetry after 9/11: An Anthology of New York Poets was published by Melville House.
Lauterbach's "Hum," like most of her work, is considered by critics to exhibit a love of abstraction and language that is typical of postmodernism. Lauterbach's language is not difficult; both her words and most of her images are simple. Still, this simplicity belies the highly evolved nature of her work. As the poet James McCorkle wrote in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Lauterbach's poems "explore the most central of lyric and human conditions—eros, mortality, the coil of time, and the material of language." Other critics, however, have taken issue with her reliance on the tools of the New York School poets. D. H. Tracy, reviewing the collection Hum in the journal Poetry, first notes that the "New York School's approach, with its offhand radicalism … has intense appeal," but he then avers that this type of "urbanity, taken too far, can become absurdity." Conversely, Shrode Hargis, writing of Hum in the Harvard Review, states that "Lauterbach thrives when … she leads the reader through the catalogue of worlds that language makes possible."
Lauterbach herself states that "although I teach poetry all the time I have no idea how I would teach my own," as Eric Goldscheider of the Boston Globe quoted her as saying during a 1999 symposium at Bard College. She did, however, invite her readers "to participate in the making of meaning as an act of pleasure in the materiality of language." That is, Lauterbach expects readers to bring their own interpretation to her work; for her, a poem is a dialogue between reader and writer. Such a definition liberates critical response from being overly formal or concerned with traditional forms of explication.
Kathy Wilson Peacock
Wilson Peacock is a writer and editor of articles about literature. In this essay, she discusses the role of the poet in times of national crises, focusing on Lauterbach's "Hum" and Robert Pinsky's "9/11."
One of the poet's main responsibilities is to deliver us from clichés in moments when words threaten to fail us. "It is so hard to know what to say" is what so many do say when confronted with grieving friends or loved ones. Rare is the eulogy that does not include the words of a poet, be that poet contemporary or biblical, as part of ritual's salve. This phenomenon was writ large after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when the United States cohered as a single community united by grief. The nation's poets, masters and novices alike, moved to the forefront during this time, their collectivity of words creating a liturgy like none other. Lauterbach's "Hum" stands out as one of the least literal yet most effective of these poems. Its power is derived from the use of ordinary means—simple words and images—to express extraordinary thoughts.
As in so much minimalist art, "Hum" is as notable for what it says as for what it does not say. It does not even "say" its title; a "hum" is in essence the opposite of spoken words. Beginning with the title and the repetition of the first verse, "The days are beautiful," the poem appears at first glance as innocuous as that bright September morning in 2001. In a series of twenty-seven fleeting stanzas, many only seven or eight words in their entirety, Lauterbach launches into a deceptively breezy lamentation that cycles through the concepts of shifting time, the beauty of weather, a shower of ash and dust, and a catalog of material objects that have nothing to do with airplanes, terrorists, heroism, freedom, or any of the other knee-jerk signifiers that permeate so many 9/11—inspired poems. In direct reference to the tragedy at hand, she says only, "The towers are incidental" and "The towers are yesterday." Hers is a poem that expresses the unbearable lightness of being in a moment of incomprehensible madness.
"Hum" is different from other 9/11—inspired poems because it is not what we might expect. "The days are beautiful" is repeated again and again, nine times total, in a poem essentially about mass bloodshed. The statement is too important to be taken as an example of irony and perhaps too opaque to be taken literally. A contrasting poem is the one that the Washington Post commissioned the U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky to write in commemoration of the first anniversary of 9/11, which he titled, simply enough, "9/11." Pinsky's words are full of images that soothe rather than challenge; the work's three-line stanzas are a litany of easily grasped references to Emily Dickinson, Will Rogers, and Marianne Moore. It includes the occasional high-school vocabulary word ("expropriation"), pedestrian phrases such as "terrible spectacle" and "doomed firefighters," and the requisite splash of patriotism via references to the "Eagle's head" and the Statue of Liberty. Pinsky hits all the notes a poet laureate is expected to hit, corralling a population of nearly three hundred million people into a single-minded "collective we" that wrings its hands over a self-conscious desire for titillating televised disaster. In doing his job, Pinsky delivers a belated eulogy that stirs up just enough discomfort to be neatly swept away with phrases borrowed from "America the Beautiful."
Perhaps, however, a comparison is unfair. After all, the poems "Hum" and "9/11" were written for different reasons. Lauterbach's lamentation is a visceral reaction to a tragedy still under way, while Pinsky's poem is a reflection of events a year in the past. Lauterbach's narrator is concerned with the images at hand: images of dust, ash, a feeling that tomorrow is gone. She writes of a sky subsumed by sound and debris, of weather that is nothing, and of weeping, all of which serves to upset her sense of equilibrium, her sense that "the days are beautiful." Hers is the reaction of a camera's lens, unfiltered by politics, raw in its questions ("What is this dust?"). Moreover, she presents the voice of a single narrator, one of a million witnesses, whose experience is unique. Her narrator alone is the one who notices the robe "that smells of the night" and the stones "loosed from their settings."
Conversely, Pinsky's purpose is not to put forth a singular vision but to act as the spokesman of our collective response; hence the recitations regarding donated blood, box cutters, and Ray Charles. As a minimalist work, "Hum" does not need to focus on the images of crushed fire engines or the doctors and nurses who had nothing to do because there were no walking wounded to be saved. Lauterbach's intent as a poet is to create an unusually variegated collage based on snatches of thoughts, much as Picasso's painting Guernica achieved the power of a thousand-page manifesto through a single mural in black and white that starkly and simply depicted the devastation from the bombing of Guernica, Spain, and its civilian population during the Spanish Civil War.
Several generations ago, Wilfred Owen, a soldier who ultimately died in battle, alerted the world to the first killing fields of the modern age in his poem "Dulce Et Decorum Est," which presented the indelible image of a soldier suffocating in the "thick green light" of a mustard gas attack. His words were graphic; they needed to be, in order to convey the horror of World War I to those who still espoused outdated romantic notions of warfare from the insulated confines of their Edwardian-era parlors. Almost a century later, on 9/11, there was no insulated parlor; millions upon millions saw the horror firsthand. Television collapsed the physical distance between the site of the World Trade Center and the places where the nation's people stood and sat, whether Manhattan or Montana.
Thus, the twenty-first-century poet's language of tragedy need not be gruesome to be effective. Whereas Owen described blood "gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs" of the dying soldier, Lauterbach wrote, "The sound is falling," and both achieved much the same effect. The horror of 9/11 was already seared into the nation's collective mind. Owen, in a world not yet saturated with mass media, served as a literary war correspondent with literal images. His was a poem of admonition; his way of saying, "Tomorrow was yesterday," was to call the battle cry "It is sweet and proper to die for one's country" ("Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori") a lie. Both Owen and Lauterbach bore witness to the greatest horrors of their generations and responded with eulogies that burst free from the clichés of their respective days.
What Do I Read Next?
- Poetry after 9/11: An Anthology of New York Poets (2002), edited by Dennis Loy Johnson and Valerie Merians, presents forty-five poems written in response to the terrorist tragedies. Featured poets include Stephen Dunn, Hal Sirowitz, Molly Peacock, and Alicia Ostriker.
- The poem "9/11," by Robert Pinsky, a former U.S. poet laureate, was commissioned by the Washington Post for the first anniversary of the attacks and was published on September 12, 2002. It is available at http://www.pbs.org/news hour/bb/poems/july-dec02/9-11_9-11.html from Online Newshour.
- Frank O'Hara's "Why I Am Not a Painter," from his 1965 collection Lunch Poems, is a breezy response to all of his admirers who wondered why he became a poet. As a founding member of the New York School of poets, O'Hara was greatly influenced by the contemporary art scene of the 1950s.
- W. H. Auden's "September 1, 1939," published in his Selected Poems (1940), was written to commemorate the day the Nazis invaded Poland at the beginning of World War II. Written in the first person, it recounts Auden's reaction to hearing the news as he sat in a Manhattan diner.
- John Ashbery, considered one of the greatest American poets of the twentieth century, was a leading voice of the New York School of poets. His 1986 collection Selected Poems offers an overview of his work.
- Jorie Graham's Overlord (2005) tackles many of the same themes that interest Lauterbach with a style that is also influenced by abstract art. While Graham's work is infused with more religious imagery than Lauterbach's, this collection, like Hum, is a post-9/11 meditation.
- Lauterbach's If in Time: Selected Poems, 1975–2000 (2001) offers readers an overview of the poet's career.
- The Night Sky: Writings on the Poetics of Experience (2005) is a collection of essays written by Lauterbach for the American Poetry Review between 1996 and 1999. Subjects include the impact of her father's early death on her work and ruminations about poetry's role in popular culture.
- The comic novel A Nest of Ninnies, written by the New York School poets John Ashbery and James Schuyler and originally published in 1969, is a satirical look at the follies of middle-class and upper-class suburbanites. The work was written in a slightly experimental "dialogue" format.
The narrator of "Hum," in the midst of horror's confusion, seeks to reassure herself of what she knows. She knows the days are (supposed to be) beautiful; she knows what is (supposed to be) incidental; she knows that the ash falling from the sky is not weather. She knows the towers are gone; she knows tomorrow is gone—at least the tomorrow that she had imagined yesterday. These are the unfiltered, unedited thoughts that occur in the suspended moment of time between perception and understanding.
Conversely, Pinsky's narrator has had a year to consider the tragedy. Instead of focusing on the action in slow motion, he gathers together images of popular culture in order to create touch points that soothe. Who is more effective, one then asks, Lauterbach or Pinsky? The answer depends on what one seeks from poems. With more universal words (everyone knows of yesterday, tomorrow, dust, and weather, but not everyone knows of social security numbers, Frederick Douglass, and Ray Charles's charity recording), Lauterbach's "Hum" comes closer to evoking the primal aspects of sorrow aroused by 9/11 than Pinsky's poem. Pinsky writes for the part of the popular consciousness that is American; Lauterbach writes for the part of the American consciousness that is human. With respect to the universal need for words to ameliorate tragedy, and with respect to finding the "right thing to say" without descending into standard funereal clichés, "Hum" demonstrates that less can be more. With its musical attributes of repetition and refrain, Lauterbach's poem is a stirring dirge that is elegant in its universality and unprocessed rawness of feeling.
Source: Kathy Wilson Peacock, Critical Essay on "Hum," in Poetry for Students, Thomson Gale, 2007.
In the following review excerpt, Seaman notes Lauterbach's ability to address both the physical and the intellectual aspects of consciousness.
A new book of poems and an essay collection showcase the subtle and philosophical work of a rarefied yet captivating poet.
In Hum, Lauterbach taps into both the sensual and the cerebral aspects of consciousness. Her exquisite lyric poems are like lacework, netting feeling and thought, and embodying the inner flickering of light and dark, presence and absence. As Lauterbach gambols between sense and sensibility, elusiveness and lucidity, she sketches a poetic universe similar in topography and weather to that of Stevens and Ashbery. She meditates on the music of Mahler and the art of Botticelli and Gerhard Richter, and, like a particle accelerator, her whirling poems atomize experience. In her most focused and moving poems, Lauterbach, like so many writers, including Jorie Graham in Overlord (2005), traces the concussive emotional effects of 9/11.
Source: Donna Seaman, Review of Hum, in Booklist, Vol. 101, No. 18, May 15, 2005, p. 1630.
Bowker Magazine Group
In the following review, the writer puts Lauterbach's poems in a space between an abstract ideal and the real world as we see and know it, and says that their meanings are revealed with grace.
"Maybe what is interesting will also be beautiful," writes Lauterbach at the opening of her seventh collection of poems, knowingly marking out a world that exists after beauty, after emotion, after nature—after everything that traditionally makes poetry. Her speaker is determined to make the absence of beauty beautiful without being postmodern; the poems are abstract and slippery, and yield their meanings with reluctant late modernist grace. The book is organized into three sections, the first attending chiefly to sound, the second to visual art, the third to 9/11. The poems limn a space somewhere between the world-as-given and the ideal, concentrating on language's dual relationship to experience, "[a]s if 'life' could touch its metaphors." The rifle poem addresses 9/11 in a series of simple declarative sentences, which repeat at intervals: "The days are beautiful./ The towers are yesterday." A poem about a Malevich painting argues for abstraction always derived from the concrete: "the square was only/ a boy with his knapsack/ a woman crossing his path." When her speaker, at intervals, simply gives it up ("I'm lonely for the integrity of sacred life, not religion, but love's/ trove, its coil around sex"), the hum of this book becomes a chorus of angels.
Source: Bowker Magazine Group, Review of Hum, in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 252, No. 16, April 18, 2005, p. 58.
In the following review, Hargis concentrates on Lauterbach's use of anaphora and catalogues as linguistic devices.
In his essay "Poetry and Happiness," Richard Wilbur writes of the poet's "primitive desire … to lay claim to as much of the world as possible," a desire which manifests itself in what he calls "cataloguing": a poetic mode that allows the poet to both "name the world … and embody the self." Eric Pankey, in his six previous books, has specialized in a particular blend of cataloguing which one might characterize as "psychological pastoral," wherein the aim is to take stock of the outer world (nature, in particular) in order to comment on and create an aperture to the inner. Indeed, Pankey writes in the tradition of Wallace Stevens and has confirmed as much himself.
Reliquaries, his new book, is a departure from this on two levels. For one, Pankey's cataloguing, though still imbued with the fodder of the pastoral, resides mainly in the realm of the heroic "I"; and two, Pankey abandons the compressed and predominately formal metrics of his previous work for a longer, more prosaic line:
If only I were fluent in another language, I might be fluent at last and at least in this one.
When I hear an angel rustle in the matrix of vines and hedges amid a thousand thorn spurs,
When the screw-head is stripped and no tool I own can turn it,
When I find a pale blue egg fallen, unbroken, in the green shade of the shriveled irises,
It is my own wordlessness by which I set down the moment and its abracadabra.
The entire book reads this way, with each line acting as its own grammatical entity and each poem sounding like an engaging litany of Whitmanesque oratorios. Where the roll calls of Pankey's previous books succeeded, however, by granting flora and fauna the starring roles, Reliquaries sometimes verges on long-windedness when the poet too volubly rears his head:
I want to wake and find myself awake amid the fog, Venice veiled in drizzle.
I want to sleep so that I might wake to muted bells and the water's echoed slosh.
I don't want to lament the duration nor the flux of hours as they're spent.
I drop a coin into the poor-box, another coin to illumine the fresco.
I stand in the light until the light clicks off, then fumble for another coin.
Most of the successes of Reliquaries come at the level of specific lines (or, as it were, particular elements of his many lists). One comes across gestures that are both beautiful and impressionistically affective—"The water, full of light, pulled from the well's depth, spilled in cold thick braids," or "Then as now, the road rolls behind like a winding sheet into a forest with Spanish Moss." But too often Pankey follows with a line that seems sophomoric and flat: "Then as now, the moon, my one companion, drifts beside me on a current of stars."
The form might be to blame for this. Each poem consists of four sections, and each section consists of five lines, but how these sections relate to one another is often unclear. In fact, without the poems' titles—which Pankey apparently intends as the lens through which each poem is to be interpreted—the interrelation of their sections would often be indecipherable. It's as if he sat down with conceptual cues ("Lessons in Art" or "Inertia" or "The Suspension of Disbelief), constructed four litanies of self-contained reactions to them, then called it a poem. As a consequence, the book comes off feeling like a protracted Rorschach test, and many of the poems fail to culminate in satisfying endings.
Ann Lauterbach's new book, Hum (her first since the publication of her Selected Poems), reads like a post-structuralist inversion of Reliquaries. Whereas Pankey catalogues his different responses to the same word or concept, Lauterbach often attempts to create a catalogue of responses using the same word or concept:
Is this a lyric? Can you tell me if this is a lyric?
It is about a doll, which is a thing and also an image, one
kind of thing image. Anyway, there is a doll.
A "female," or else a cross-dresser, doubtful, but an interesting idea for an image.
You would have to lift up her petticoats.
Is this the same doll? Is it archival?
Is it part of a collection, people have collections of dolls,
they are serial doll lovers.
I have had many dolls, and many lovers.
Does this make me a lyric poet?
Am I singing now, the way the doll might have sung
something from "Guys and Dolls," a musical, in which there were lyrics I once knew by heart.
If I know things by heart, does this make me a lyric poet?
Of course, this is more than just modernist anaphora—a rose is a rose is a rose—for a doll is no longer just a doll and a rose is no longer just a rose. As Lauterbach writes in "Trianges and Squares (Guston, Malevich)," one of the many successful poems in Hum. "The roses are desolate in their insufficient arrangement/The subject grows old. The subject may or may not be roses." Self-conscious word-play such as this is hard to pull off, and sometimes in Hum one feels battered over the head with it: "A doll, let's say again a doll …" But Lauterbach has been perfecting this approach to poetry ever since the release of her third book, Clamor, and in this new collection she is at the top of her game.
The best poems in Hum are those in which Lauterbach stages a fusion of the musical narratives representative of her early work and the "vocabulary of displacement" that runs throughout her most recent. Many of these poems consist of, as she puts it in her poem "Topos," a "plural wandering" that is reminiscent of Wallace Stevens (the same Stevens whom Pankey abandons in Reliquaries). "There is no span," she writes in "Event Horizon,"
all arguments blur
and lower life mildews along the riverbank
and a figure goes on a rampage in the exhausted
vocabulary of displacement
the arc of the bridge has collapsed
things remain under their masks
there is neither the one nor the other with whom to flirt. This is what occurs, less than a horizon.
This is Ann Lauterbach at her best and provides a small taste of just one of the many mesmerizing journeys that can be found in Hum. Indeed, Lauterbach thrives when, rather than cataloguing the many possibilities of language, she leads the reader through the catalogue of worlds that language makes possible and therefore provides alternative perspectives "into" poetry and art and (why not?) life:
Maybe what is interesting will also be beautiful
although that is—that is:
not to look out or at, but into.
Source: Shrode Hargis, Review of Hum, in Harvard Review, Vol. 29, December 2005, pp. 232-35.
Susan M. Schultz
In the following essay excerpt, Schultz discusses Lauterbach's debt to John Ashbery in her use of houses as a metaphor for poetry and for community.
Critics have written much about John Ashbery's relation to the poets who precede him but little about his influence on poets who follow him. I will argue here that two of the finest of the poets who have gone to school to Ashbery, namely Ann Lauterbach and Donald Revell, are now revising his vision to fit a more social context. I am especially interested in their use of houses as metaphors for poetry and for community. Where Ashbery abdicates the traditional metaphor of the house (associated as it is with community) as a location for poetic creation, Revell and Lauterbach in different ways reclaim the trope as the site for their poetry. Where Ashbery elides the problematic tension between confinement and freedom, form and the drive toward transcendence, Revell and Lauterbach both reinstall the problem and fail—or refuse—to go around it. Revell investigates the site of marriage, and marries Ashbery's distrust of language's instability with a more earnest desire for the confinements of poetic form. Lauterbach considers the house as the home of female creativity and wants the comfort of that tradition even as she means to get past its tyranny….
Lauterbach's use of the house is complicated by her gender, for limitations—and poems—have been historically male constructions:
Garden, hedge, pool,
Planned to guard the old line, define
And compose the imagination's brown capacity.
Our extent is more than memory
Or the text of a poem willed to the wall
Although our tenacious forebears whisper
Collections, passed from father to son to son
While mother prunes.
That the "old line" is poetic as well as social is especially worrisome for a female poet; that the poem, like the "will," enforces limits means that her poems must resist those same kinds of limitation. "It is not the dark that scares me, but the limit / which places the house in the field, the horse in its stall." Hers will not be the "garden, hedge, pool"—the Eden of social memory—but the house itself. For Lauterbach, to be at home is both a blessing and a curse, for it metaphorically represents a feminine line of creation at the same time as it closes her out of Whitman's open road. She attempts to get past this impasse by opening her house to infinitude, as Dickinson did. In "Naming the House," she posits the conflict between a "longing for dispersal" and the "joy of naming it this, and this is mine":
And I think also of how women, toward evening,
Watch as the buoyant dim slowly depletes
Terrain, and frees the illuminated house
So we begin to move about, reaching for potholders
And lids, while all the while noting
That the metaphor of the house is ours to keep
And the dark exterior only another room
Waiting for its literature.
This poem is an apt response to Dickinson's poem about the differences between prose and poetry, confinement and freedom, which is built on the metaphor of a house:
I dwell in Possibility—
A fairer House than Prose—
More numerous of Windows—
where it becomes clear that Dickinson is describing a house not circumscribed by walls, but by the sky:
Of Chambers as the Cedars—
Impregnable of Eye—
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Cambrels of the Sky—
Just so Lauterbach sees the outside as "only another room" and the poet as someone who "dallies now in plots / But feels a longing for dispersal." We can read "plots" as plots of ground, as grave-plots, or as the prose that represents for Dickinson and for her the genre of confinement, the woman's genre. The word "household" tells the story nicely.
Where Ashbery seems content to evade the question, posed so incessantly by Stevens, of the relation between reality and imagination, between place and the thoughts we have about it, Lauterbach is not: she personifies this dualism as "Bishop" and "Beckett" in "St. Lucia." "Elizabeth Bishop" she uses to mean a reverence for the place itself; "Samuel Beckett" to mean the allegorization of place. The dualism does not, of course, bear too much scrutiny, something that Lauterbach doubtless knows well enough as she places herself between them:
The sea, solitary or not,
Implies the confines of a dream.
I'm between Beckett and Bishop,
The one entirely in, the other there
Civilizing Brazil, clarity to clarity.
Lauterbach's conversation with Stevens is ongoing, but nowhere so compelling as in "Carousel," where she takes on Stevens's "Idea of Order at Key West" and Ashbery's early poem, "The Painter," from Some Trees. This poem, like so many of Rev-ell's, works by repetitions of key images, the working of language apart from human agency. Stevens' woman/artist, we recall, ordered the sea through her song:
She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves
Where Stevens gives us an image of a woman walking beside the sea, Ashbery, in his sestina "The Painter," gives us an image of the artist as the sea—an image that he comes to acknowledge is dangerous. The mechanical working of the poem reflects the inhuman machinations of the painter's scene:
Imagine a painter crucified by his subject!…
Others declared it a self-portrait.
Finally all indications of a subject
Began to fade, leaving the canvas
Perfectly white. He put down the brush.
At once a howl, that was also a prayer,
Arose from the overcrowed [sic] buildings.
Both the painter and his painting are thrown off the tallest building, and are devoured by the sea, which had been his subject.
Lauterbach presents herself as both the agent of order and as someone who distrusts order. It is she, seemingly, who sets Ashbery's painter right, In "Carousel," where she wears the sea's sleeves:
I like masks, deeper shades of blue,
How it concludes black.
A swimmer is adorned with one arm
Rising out of the blue.
A man in the sea.
A painting of a man in the sea.
I like the way it comes out of the blue.
The horse rises and falls; my sleeves are waving.
It is not dark that scares me, but the limit
Which places the house in the field, the horse in its stall.
The man in the sea is again the same as a painting of the man in the sea, but without the chaos portended in Ashbery's poem. Instead, what frightens this poet is precisely the opposite, the limits that Ashbery had so blithely erased in his poem. The image with which she ends the poem preserves the contrast between limit and limitlessness:
Over her shoulder, the painting depicts will.
Staring at the view, she has a sense of place
And of omission. The ways in which we live
Are earmarked for letting go, and so
She makes her descent, plucks it, rises into the blue.
Lauterbach's resolution of the problem, then, is its revaluation; the poet's job is to trace, "The syntax of solitude …/ To witness versions that clock and petal, / Enfolding instances." This clocking (mechanical) and petaling (organic) are the edges of the liminal space in which Lauterbach operates; it is a house, but one that perishes before her eyes. "The soul's haphazard sanctuary" is more like Stevens' dump than like Dickinson's house, but the final chamber promises, even if it does not deliver, revelation:
We might think of this as a blessing
As we thrash in the nocturnal waste:
Rubble of doors, fat layers of fiber
Drooping under eaves, weeds
Leaning in lassitude after heavy rain
Has surged from a whitened sky.
Thunder blooms unevenly in unknowable places
Breaking distance into startling new chambers
We cannot enter; potentially, a revelation.
This comes from the first poem in the book, "Still." The last poem, "Sacred Weather," describes "a gathered dispersal"—rather like Hart Crane's "slip of pebbles" in his last poem, "The Broken Tower." This is an elegy for her father, "whose sleeve was last seen bound to a wing," in that liminal space he shares with Stevens' last philosopher in Rome. The moment of transcendence she describes as a place, a landscape:
Nevertheless a balance forms, its crest
The start of radiance like that grassy limit
Or shore. Certain early episodes rub,
Curiously nearby, poised to ensue.
A pale linearity hangs a new surface in the air
Like a mute plow stretching the light.
In the poem's final section, Lauterbach uses puns (pine and pain is one) to show how language itself becomes "a new surface in the air." But more telling is her use of the word "refrain" in what follows, the final lines in Beyond Recollection:
May have ceased to pine.
Stasis is an attribute, domain of the lily.
Even the sky gives color up,
An ecstasy too slight, less than free.
I myself long to refrain
But would bleed and bless
Robe opening on slowly mounted stair.
That she longs to refrain bespeaks a double, and contradictory, desire; to read the word as a verb indicates a desire to cease, even to die. Yet poetic refrains are precisely those passages that repeat themselves, and the poetic act is itself one of repetition. Her final image, likewise, speaks both of death and of eroticism, of enclosure and of opening.
Are Revell and Lauterbach, then, mere backpedalers in the literary history now creating itself around us? Have they quailed at the radicalism of Ashbery's project, which seems in so many ways both late Romantic and postmodernist? This is perhaps not for any of us to say—yet. But, if Ashbery seems the darling of deconstructionists, his poems (like "Houseboat Days") undoing themselves as purposefully as Penelope's tapestry, then Lauterbach and Revell will surely appeal more to critics wanting to stop the gaps in deconstruction's logic. Certainly they will not be the darlings of New Historicists—they are too Ashberyan for that—but they may show us how Ashbery's model can be revised to include social, even political, contexts. For, even if Revell and Lauterbach trade more in metaphor than in fact (Revell's Gaza is not that of the PLO, to one reviewer's chagrin), their metaphors are grounded more consistently in the social and political realm than are his. If these two poets do not give us the radical wealth we are accustomed to in Ashbery, they at least give us hope that we can, still, make coherent selves for ourselves.
Source: Susan M. Schultz, "Houses of Poetry after Ashbery: The Poetry of Ann Lauterbach and Donald Revell," in Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. 67, No. 2, Spring 1991.
"Burial of the Dead: Rite Two," in The Book of Common Prayer, Seabury Press, 1977, p. 501.
Clover, Joshua, "American Ink: Why Poetry? Why Now?" in the Village Voice, February 19-25, 2003, available online at http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0308,clover,41980,1.html.
Danto, Arthur C, "9/11 Art as a Gloss on Wittgenstein," in artnet Magazine, September 9, 2005, available online at http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/danto/danto9-9-05.asp?p.
Goldscheider, Eric, "Meeting Takes on Challenge of Teaching Contemporary Poetry: 'It's Hard to Explain,' Writers Concede at Conference," in the Boston Globe, August 22, 1999.
Hargis, Shrode, Review of Hum, in Harvard Review, Vol. 29, December 2005, pp. 232-35.
Lauterbach, Ann, "Hum," in Hum, Penguin Books, 2005, pp. xiii, 76-78.
McCorkle, James, "Ann Lauterbach," in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 193, American Poets since World War II, Sixth Series, edited by Joseph Conte, Gale Research, 1998, pp. 180-92.
Owen, Wilfred, "Dulce et Decorum Est," in The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen, edited by C. Day Lewis, New Directions, 1963, p. 55.
Pinsky, Robert, "9/11," Online Newshour, September 12, 2002, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/poems/july-dec02/9-11_9-11.html.
Review of Hum, in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 252, No. 16, April 18, 2005, p. 58.
Tracy, D. H., Review of Hum, in Poetry, Vol. 187, No. 4, January 2006, pp. 338-39.
Altieri, Charles, The Art of Twentieth-Century American Poetry: Modernism and After, Blackwell, 2006.
Altieri, a leading poetry critic, offers a comprehensive overview of modernism in poetry, with emphases on Wallace Stevens and W. H. Auden, both of whom have influenced Lauterbach. Altieri concentrates on explaining how modernism arose and how poetry has been influenced by the other arts.
Lauterbach, Ann, "Links without Links: The Voice of the Turtle," in American Poetry Review, Vol. 21, No. 1, January-February 1992, p. 37.
Lauterbach discusses contemporary poetry, touching on the subject of the Persian Gulf War. She believes that poetry represents a distaste for power and states that poets need to reject literalism in their work in order to convey truth and create a new perception of the world.
――――――, "2001 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize," in Nation, February 4, 2002, pp. 33-34.
Lauterbach gave this speech several months after the 9/11 attacks. In it, she discusses her reaction to the tragedy and provides context for how other poets have responded to this and other disasters.
Lauterbach, Ann, and Tim Peterson, "Rootless Elegiac: An Interview with Ann Lauterbach," in Rain Taxi, Vol. 7, No. 2, Summer 2002.
Lauterbach discusses Wallace Stevens, the influence of music on her poetry, and her sensory "synesthesia," in which sounds, images, place, and time meld into each other during the creative process.
Yezzi, David, Review of On a Stair, in Poetry, Vol. 21, No. 5, August 1998, p. 292.
In a brief review of Lauterbach's collection, Yezzi comments (not altogether favorably) about the tension in Lauterbach's work and her many artistic references.
"Hum." Poetry for Students. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/hum
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