Norma Farber First Book Award
Anna Maria Hong
THE GLASS AGE
Every age an age of glass: A slipper shoes
the foot, takes giant steps of tock and tick,
a cone blown, known gone, glass is fashioned, metal
spun to color, mineral made light,
and this is the last poem I will write.
Glass is sand is time falling loose,
a gap of glass is wrapping, a bottle
( ) or swan ( ) of the human whose
hand will flip the glass, grabbing it
by the neck. Every time a nick.
And it is our glass to raise and smash.
A female silhouette, a shape, a vase
with two closed ends, one met. Two cones have kissed.
And the skin of our limit is glass.
Geoffrey G. O’Brien on Anna Maria Hong
Though "[d]one with iambics," Anna Maria Hong's Age of Glassuses the sonnet's other ancient materials to build a sequence song "out of all possible solutions." That double preposition—"out of"—signals both invention and exhaustion, the hope and risk which come with deploying that old form in this latest age. But Hong will not oppose these senses, instead making invention from various forms of exhaustion: most of the poems are not content to rhyme only on their right margins, but anywhere else in the line as well (exhaustion as overabundance), while one sonnet uses only four words to do all its work (paucity as fatigue). This play of too much and not enough, what one sonnet calls a "few too / many or few too few," isn't just a way through the problems of a form that dates back to the 13th century, it's a description of the disaster of our present age, its "capitalist / suicide songs" and "Liberticide." The sonnet is the confinement of "the vox" to a kind of "box" (many of the sonnets have this word in their titles) and the box is both "a nation" and "a one-person show," "all containment all the time." For all the pleasure this book takes in its wits and sounds, in choosing new ways to sing in the optional cage of the sonnet, that pleasure feels at best "ferociously happy," because the book knows too that there is no way as yet to get out of the "endless project" of an unjust present, which is only "our time to savage." It takes wit to see the "age" in "savage," but wit in Hong's work is pain made generous.