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Women Early Plymouth (1977): Quaker House Poems

Lyn Lifshin, Women Early Plymouth (Morgan Press, 1977)


photo credit: meeeeeeeeee

Excuse the mess. I’m moving stuff around.

Wikipedia tells me that Lyn Lifshin published her first single-author chapbook in 1969, though it also mentions in the paragraph before that that no comprehensive bibliography of Lifshin’s publications has ever been compiled. One way or the other, though, by 1977 the zine queen was already a big enough name in the small-press world to allow Morgan Press to put out this gorgeous little (I use that term very loosely, in that the book is sixty-four pages long; it’s actually just about coffee-table dimensions otherwise) hardcover in an edition of five hundred. I’d imagine it probably sold out in record time. My wife scored a copy for me for Father’s Day on ebay this year, so my ever-growing Lifshin collection is one step closer to complete. Hallelujah. Lifshin’s poetry shares the space with lovely graphics by Susan Hale Kemenyffy about which the book’s endnote says it was produced with “presses not up to reproducing the actual colors of the prints”. I was even more endeared to the book after I read that.

As far as Lifshin’s pieces go, if memory serves this is the first of her earlier work I’ve read that isn’t connected to the Madonna poems, save a few pieces in Cold Comfort, so I find them inherently interesting; YMMV, though I can’t imagine it would if you’re already a Lifshin fan (and isn’t everyone?):

“sunflowers thru
the ice grey
moss water
plants beetles
ice like a mirror.
A young woman
kneeling in
the reeds.
Crows in the
ice too. Snow
buntings skimming
the cliffs rushing
by like what
he did”
(–p. 48)

I continue to be perturbed by the sometimes-ridiculous placement of line breaks, but after thirty years of reading Lifshin I’m used to it by now. In any case, if you run across a copy of it in a used bookstore, it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re already a fan; if not, there are much more accessible (and cheaper, these days) books of Lifshin’s to get you started, but you’ll want to circle back around to this eventually. *** ½


photo credit: mememe

A representative Kemenyffy print.

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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