Joyce Carol Oates is best known, of course, as a novelist and short story writer. But she is also an essayist and critic, a playwright, and a poet of great distinction.
The Time Traveler is a generous collection of Oates’s poetry from recent years. There are seventy poems, most of them previously published in literary magazines and journals, some obscure, some widely known, among them Antaeus, Atlantic Monthly, Paris Review, Grand Street, Hudson Review, Ploughshares, and TriQuarterly, to name only a few. Brought together in a book, they represent and reemphasize the range of Joyce Carol Oates as a poet, the mastery of craft, the depth and intensity of feeling, the intuitive understanding and heightened perception of life that have made her so extraordinary a writer. Indeed, it is not unfair to say that poetry in its many guises and voices plays a significant (if sometimes subterranean) role in whatever she writes. As an artist at the height of her powers, Joyce Carol Oates is truly sui generis.
I. I SAW A WOMAN WALKING . . .
Loves of the Parrots
Your Blood in a Little Puddle, On the Ground
Self-Portrait as a Still Life
I Saw a Woman Walking into a Plate Glass Window
Playlet for Voices
An Ordinary Morning in Las Vegas
Welcome to Dallas!
Love Letter, with Static Interference from Einstein’s Brain
Luxury of Being Despised
Peaches, Pineapples, Hazelnuts . . .
Don’t Bare Your Soul!
II. “I DON’T WANT TO ALARM YOU”
Marsyas Flayed by Apollo
Winslow Homer’s The Gulf Stream, 1902
Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, 1942
The Mountain Lion
Sparrow Hawk Above a New Jersey Cornfield
New Jersey White-Tailed Deer
Dream After Bergen-Belsen
“I Don’t Want to Alarm You”
The Consolation of Animals
A Winter Suite
Follies of Winter
Winter Aphorisms, Uncoded
Black Winter Day
The Sacred Fount
III. YOUNG LOVE, AMERICA
Young Love, America
Waiting on Elvis, 1956
Roller Rink, 1954
The House of Mystery
Poem in Death Valley
Undefeated Heavyweight, 20 Years Old
How Delicately . . .
Mania: Early Phase
Late December: New Jersey
In Jana’s Garden
IV. THE TIME TRAVELER
The Time Traveler
Sleepless in Heidelberg
Strait of Magellan
Miniatures: East Europe
An Old Prayer
Honeymoon: Forty Years
The Floating Birches
“I Can Stand There in the Corner . . .”
Falling Asleep at the Wheel, Route 98 North
Last Exit Before Bridge
The Miraculous Birth
I Saw A Woman Walking Into A Plate Glass Window
I saw a woman walking into a plate glass window
as if walking into the sky.
I saw her death striding forward to meet her,
shadowed in flawless glass.
Dogwood blossoms drew her, a lilac-drugged air,
it was beauty’s old facade,
blind: the transparency
that, touched, turns opaque.
The frieze into which she stepped buckled in anger
and dissolved in puzzle parts about her head.
* * *
I saw a woman walking into sunshine confident and composed
and tranquil to the last.
I saw a woman walking into something that had seemed nothing.
As we commonly tell ourselves.
The trick to beauty is its being unassimilable,
a galaxy of glittering reflections,
each puzzle part in place.
Not this raining of glass and blood
about the amazed head.
The unfathomable depths into which she stepped became
the merest surface,
Pain and noise.
* * *
I saw a woman walking into her broken body
as if she were a bride.
I saw her soul struck to the ground because mere space
could not bear it aloft.
I saw how the window at last framed only what was there,
beyond the frame,
that could not fall.
My throat filled with blood:
you would not have believed how swiftly.
- Publisher’s Weekly, July 28, 1989, p215
- Library Journal, September 1, 1989, p194
- Booklist, September 15, 1989, p137
- Atlanta Journal Constitution, January 14, 1990, N8
- San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, January 21, 1990, p8
- Chicago Tribune Books, February 18, 1990, p3
- Virginia Quarterly Review, Summer 1990, p524
- World Literature Today, Autumn 1990, p646
I'm a Reference Librarian at the University of San Francisco's Gleeson Library, and I run the Joyce Carol Oates web site, Celestial Timepiece.