Read Heart's Needle by W.D. Snodgrass Online

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Title : Heart's Needle
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780394722207
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 62 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Heart's Needle Reviews

  • BillKerwin
    2019-01-18 00:16

    This Pulitzer Prize winner is considered to be the first volume of "confessional poetry." Snodgrass hated the term, but it can't be denied that something new began with Heart's Needle (1959). It is as resolutely formal as Yeats or Frost, yet remarkably frank about the particulars of its pain.Snodgrass grew up in small towns north of Pittsburgh, and was attending local Geneva College when he was drafted into the Navy in the latter days of WW II. After demobilization, he returned home, alienated and drifting, until he anchored himself to Miss Lila Jean Hank. They were married in 1946, Lila soon giving birth to a daughter, Cynthia. Snodgrass decided to transfer his college credits and relocate, so the family packed up and moved to Iowa, where he attended The Writer's Workshop on the G.I. Bill (and was mentored by Berryman and Lowell, among others). He returned to his hometown of Beaver Falls with a couple of M.A.'s, in English and Fine Arts, but no job prospects in education, and worked a few low-level jobs, in a hotel and a hospital. It was a difficult, stressful period for Snodgrass, and by 1954 his marriage to Lila was over. Soon a new wife, Jan, seems to have blessed his life with a new stability, and he began working as an English instructor, first at Cornell and Rochester. Meanwhile, Lila was granted full custody of Cynthia, and Snodgrass saw her only on special occasions: visits to the park, the museum, the zoo, etc. But he continued to cherish her and their time together and--of course--he continued to write poetry.This is not a particularly remarkable biography of a postwar poet in his early thirties. What is remarkable about it is the sharpness and the honesty with which Heart's Needle conveys its emotional essence--minus many of the names and dates--to the reader.For example, the alienation of a man returning home from war is touched upon in "Ten Days Leave" and "Returned to Frisco 1946," where Snodgrass speaks of parents who have kept "his dreams asleep here like a small homestead/ Preserved long past its time," and presents the Golden Gate bridge as both a welcome and a barrier to Eden:Off the portside through the haze we could discernAlcatraz, lavender with flowers. Barred,The Golden Gate, fading away, asternStood like the closed gate of your own backyard.Just as moving is "Orpheus," in which the poet cannot save his wife from being lost in a ravaged post-war underworld, a "blank, remembering maze where/ smoke rose."Most remarkable, however, is the ten poem sequence that gives the book its name. (The title comes from an old Irish saying: "an only daughter is the needle of the heart.") It is the chronicle of the brief, awkward visits that limit and define his relationship with Cynthia, the daughter of his first marriage.The sequence begins with Cynthia's birth in the wintertime during the Korean war:Child of my winter, bornWhen the new fallen soldiers frozeIn Asia’s steep ravines and fouled the snows,When I was tornBy love I could not still,By fear that silenced my cramped mindTo that cold war where, lost, I could not findMy peace in my will, All those days we could keepYour mind a landscape of new snowWhere the chilled tenant-farmer finds, below,His fields asleepIn their smooth covering, whiteAs quilts to warm the resting bedOf birth or pain, spotless as paper spreadFor me to write . . .And it ends in springtime, some years later, in a park with a zoo:With crocus mouths, perennial hungers, into the park Spring comes;we roast hot dogs on old coat hangers and feed the swan bread crumbs,pay our respects to the peacocks, rabbits, and leathery Canada goosewho took, last Fall, our tame white habits and now will not turn loose.In full regalia, the pheasant cocks march past their dubious hens;the porcupine and the lean, red fox trot around bachelor pensand the miniature painted train wails on its oval track:you said, I’m going to Pennsylvania! and waved. And you’ve come back.If I loved you, they said, I’d leave and find my own affairs.Well, once again this April, we’ve come around to the bears;punished and cared for, behind bars, the coons on bread and waterstretch thin black fingers after ours. And you are still my daughter.Heart's Needle is a milestone of personal expression in poetry. If you do not wish to read the whole book, read this sequence. It is dense, rich, and very moving.

  • Mike Lindgren
    2019-01-20 00:18

    First published in 1960, W. D. Snodgrass's Heart's Needle is one of the finest single-volume collections of poetry I have ever read, a work of sustained verbal and conceptual intensity and remarkable consistency of vision and execution. The structure of the book is loosely narrative, tracing as it does the dissolution of a marriage and the resultant aftermath -- the title poem, which comprises the second half of the volume, is famously addressed in absentia to the poet's young daughter. The voice is by turns astringent, rueful, and defiant, and the prosody consists largely of vigorous yet flexible quatrains, a strong, classical driving line. The poems are full of sadness, but staunchly bereft of self-pity; they achieve a stinging emotional pitch while remaining fundamentally grave and austere. Taken as a whole, they are an achingly perfect expression of a certain kind of middle-aged American Protestant male poetic sensibility -- yearning, loss-haunted, full of inchoate nostalgia -- that I find deeply affecting.

  • Benjamin
    2019-02-03 19:23

    I don't generally care so much for the Confessional poets, but Snodgrass is an exception. A lot of really touching poems here, none better than the title poem - or more accurately, series of ten poems - chronicling his difficult relationship with his estranged daughter. My favorite moment is the seventh entry, which runs as follows:Here in the scuffled dust is our ground of play.I lift you on your swing and must shove you away,see you return again, drive you off again, thenstand quiet till you come. You, though you climbhigher, farther from me, longer, will fall back to me stronger.Bad penny, pendulum, you keep my constant timeto bob in blue July where fat goldfinches flyover the glittering, fecund reach of our growing lands.Once more now, this second, I hold you in my hands.

  • Tristan
    2019-02-05 16:27

    Actually Rating: 3.5This was a very good book. The poems "Orpheus" and "The Operation" were very good, and "Heart's Needle", about his daughter who is became estranged from after his divorce, was great. The rest of the collection was decent but a bit lackluster and extremely personal. He tells readers a lot about himself and his life in his poems. All of the poems in this collection were also both metrical and rhyming, which is fine; they were very well done, but this is not generally my favorite style of poetry when read in large quantities. His second book, After Experience, was better, even though this was the Pulitzer Prize winner.

  • Mike
    2019-02-11 20:37

    This is one of my favorite collections. Snodgrass's poems are intensely personal, but still have a universal appeal. I can identify with so many small moments that it almost feels as if Snodgrass is inside my head. Even the poems with which I don't identify (like the title poem, which is about an estranged relationship between father and daughter) speak to emotional truths that offer striking epiphanies of insight. Perhaps the best way I can describe these poems is "wounding": they pierce the reader, leaving memorable traces that reflect the scars felt by the poet. Highly recommended.

  • Erika
    2019-02-09 16:19

    Favourite poems: "Heart's Needle", "Home Town", "The Cardinal", "The Campus on the Hill", and "April Inventory"I don't usually like confessional poems, but I read an interview with Snodgrass published in the 80s and was drawn to this work because of it. While I still find confessional poets self-indulgent, this work is vital to understanding the nuances of that genre. What I enjoyed best was that he uses simple words and phrases to comment on strange and complex emotions.

  • Angie
    2019-01-17 22:33

    This poem was unconditionally touching. It's no wonder W.D. Snodgrass (or "De" as one my favorite poets, Anne Sexton, called him) won a Pulitzer for this raw - and refreshingly real - account of his divorce's effect on his and his daughter's relationship. I also have a strange affinity for compass references (not sure why? maybe something about them pointing people in the right directions?)...one is in the first section of the poem.

  • Paul
    2019-01-30 23:14

    This won the pulitzer for poetry in ’59. kind of hard to review poetry quickly and I wouldn’t want to dismiss this enitre work by simply calling it “good times.” Not as experimental (or nearly as fun) as his later work The Fuehrer Bunker, but is widely considered one of the first collections of confessional poetry. A little mild for my taste but is moody enough to make you think.

  • Alan
    2019-02-02 22:35

    Read aloud. I've kept the same copy of this book for many years. Was saddened to see yesterday (January 17) that W.D. had died. I will take down his book from the shelf, and think of those words.

  • Stephan Anstey
    2019-02-02 19:14

    Meeting Mr. Snodgrass, and then really reading his work, completely changed my understanding and perspective on confessional poetry. His importance can not be overstated!

  • Richard Epstein
    2019-01-30 16:34

    Some poems never seem to leave me. Early in his career Snodgrass wrote a disproportionate number of them.

  • Tom
    2019-02-05 17:32

    I thought this was pretty okay for the most part, but "April Inventory" and especially the long title poem are wonderful.

  • Cat Lilly
    2019-02-02 19:13

    Tight in their form and best read aloud.

  • Emilia
    2019-02-10 17:29

    The title poem had some nice moments. But the rhymes often seemed forced.

  • Susan
    2019-01-29 22:33

    One of my favorite books of poetry/modern poets since I read it shortly after publication.

  • Zach
    2019-02-03 22:14

    A recommendation from my dear friend, Mr. Ryan Winet. This guy is a master of form, but I didn't find a lot here to get excited about. One of those, "it's not you, it's me" books.