I picked this book up at the library several months after reading Dan Chiasson’s piece in the New Yorker about Zucker’s work. I think it was Chiasson’s characterization of Zucker as a city poet that made me want to read her: he compares her to Frank O’Hara, and says this: “A city poet is a conduit for things said, actions observed, behaviors noted. Gossip, for a city poet, is really a form of passivity, part of a larger open-border policy toward whatever comes her way.” That open-ness is evident in poems like “please alice notley tell me how to be old,” which includes these great lines:

I think the rookie cops are graduating today
Times Square is a sea of blues there’s a secret
staircase at the end of the shuttle platform that
takes me right to my therapist’s office but you
don’t live here anymore anyway Alice I haven’t
got much time or maybe I have no one knows (96)

I like how writerly and everyday that poem is, the way it mixes city-moments with musings on gender/work/motherhood, what kinds of poems women write, or don’t. I also love “pedestrian,” another long-ish poem with a stream-of-consciousness style that’s full of great New York things, shopping and meandering and people-watching on the subway, like:

the woman next to me is reading an FSG book
can’t see the title the man on her left snores
& leans into her please someone remind me what’s
the point of literature? 72nd St & Cathy Wagner’s
book My New Job includes the word PENIS frequently (107)

In prose pieces, like those that make up the first section of the book, or like some of the dream-poems in the book’s second section, Zucker reminds me of Lydia Davis: a similar matter-of-fact tone, a similar sly humor, like in this passage from “mountains”:

In the town she bought two avocados, red grapes, two kinds of soup, kale cakes, two teriyaki chicken thighs, a chocolate bar with almonds and sea salt, a whole kabocha squash, wasabi rice chips, peanut butter, and a loaf of bread. At a different store she bought another soup. Soup seemed important. She bought a small salt grinder filled with pink salt. She bought a d’Anjou pear. If anyone asked her if she wanted bread with that she said yes. She said she did not need any plastic spoons. (53)

This book turned out to be the perfect length to read on a flight from Atlanta to New York, and its combination of intelligence and approachability made it a lovely in-flight companion: I definitely want to read more of Zucker’s work.

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