I’ve been reading and loving Marilyn Hacker’s poetry ever since her first book, Presentation Piece (1974), which means just about my entire adult life. I can’t think of another poet who combines so many opposites: she’s a swashbuckling formalist, a love poet who’s obsessed with politics, a Francophile (she’s lived in Paris for many years) whose continuous self-making is quintessentially American. Whether she’s writing about lesbian love or croissants in the shop down the block or the Arab poets she admires so much, she embraces the sensuous world—and all the world’s sorrows, too.
Montpeyroux Sonnets IV exemplifies her many sides and her many strengths. There’s a sleeping woman, Julie; a walk in a village Google tells me is one of the most beautiful in France; a fridge full of wonderful food from the farmer’s market. But there’s also loneliness, aging (her beloved coffee now gives her a sour stomach) that’s turning her into “a dyspeptic invalid.” It’s Covid time, so there are masks and isolation and sick, possibly dead, friends. What makes the sequence interesting is, as always, Hacker’s distinctive blend of poetic form with conversational freedom, expressing her lifelong verve, zest for life, and curiosity.