Acclaimed poet Susan Wheeler, whose last individual collection predicted the spiritual losses of the economic collapse, turns her attention to the most intimate of subjects: the absence or loss of love.A meme is a unit of thought replicated by imitation; examples of memes, Richard Dawkins wrote, are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Occupy Wall Street is a meme, as are internet ideas and images that go viral. What could be more potent memes than those passed down by parents to their children?
Wheeler reconstructs her mother's voice down to its cynicism and its mid twentieth-century midwestern vernacular in The Maud Poems, a voice that takes a more aggressive, vituperative turn in The Devil or The Introjects. In the book's third long sequence, a generational inheritance feeds cultural transmission in The Split. A set of variations on losses and break-ups wildly, darkly funny throughout and, in places, devastatingly sad The Split brings Wheeler's lauded inventiveness, wit, and insight to the profound loss of love. One read, and the meme Should I stay or should I go? will be altered in your head forever.
About the Author
Susan Wheeler is the author of four books of poetry and a novel. She lives in the New York area and teaches at Princeton.
"In Meme, the traditional elegy dissolves into excited bursts of imitated idiomatic speech interwoven with writing from a different register—the coolly removed, self-insightful lyric. That the elaborately constructed edifice that is personality can be reconstructed with such fascinating economy and delightful indirection is amazing. These poems are pure poetic genius."—Mary Jo Bang, author, The Bride of E
"Meme is a haunted work. We are ushered in by the disembodied voice of a mother figure, scolding and teasing in the time-stamped slang of past decades. The anachronism is both funny and terribly sad. 'Don't come in here all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,' the voice says. And it turns out that's fair warning. This cracked Virgil leads us into a consciously Dantean underworld ('Had you entered the thicket in darkness / . . . Had you been mid-life, not in haze but in crisis?'). Wheeler has created a total (and to me terrifying) linguistic environment in which hell is the introjected voices of other people, the hungry ghosts of our recent past."—Rae Armantrout, author, Money Shot
Praise for previous books:
“Wheeler accomplishes something no one has done before, bringing all her interests and influences together to make poems that reflect an America no one else has seen . . . of how love in America might work: we never get enough, and . . . what we need is distraction, busywork, stuff to consume.”—Craig Morgan Teicher, Yale Review
Praise for previous books:
“As the years and books mount, Wheeler’s verse feels increasingly grounded, without sacrificing rhetorical force."—Boston Review