Popsugar Reading Challenge category: A book with a reflected image on the cover, or "mirror" in the title
Book: A Stranger's Mirror: New and Selected Poems, 1994-2014, by Marilyn Hacker
Marilyn Hacker is one of the poets responsible for the renaissance of formal poetry. Her novel-in-sonnets, Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons, remains a tour de force. A Stranger's Mirror includes poems from Winter Numbers, Squares and Courtyards, Desperanto, and Names, plus some translations from various French-speaking poets, and new poems.
One of the pleasures of formal poetry is seeing a word or line repeated, yet changing meaning depending on the context. Hacker's poetry favors sestinas, villanelles, and sonnets, including the "crown of sonnets" form, seven sonnets with the last line of each becoming the first line of the next. Her new poems include much use of the ghazal and glose forms.
The strongest poems, in my opinion, are the ones from Winter Numbers. The section begins with "Against Elegies," a poem about the many people in her circle who are ill or dying. The sonnet sequence "Cancer Winter" addresses her own diagnosis:
It's become a form of gallows humor
to reread the elegies I wrote
at that pine table, with their undernote
of cancer as death's leitmotiv, enumer-
ating my dead, the unknown dead, the rumor
of random and pandemic deaths. I thought
I was a witness, a survivor caught
in a maelstrom and brought forth, who knew more
of pain than some, but learned it loving others.