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The Common

At the heart of Gail Mazur’s The Common is the refusal to simplify what is paradoxical in our world and a recognition of the tensions in our own divided nature. These unflinching poems create a place where wisdom and foolishness, fear and courage, rage and pity, love and diffidence, naturally co-exist.

Desire, ambition, devotion, and devastating loss are all subjects for Mazur’s clear-eyed poems, which resonate with the contradictions between the body’s yearning and the mind’s acknowledgment of the consequences of our choices. In a poetry driven by unrelenting questioning, Mazur tries, in Rilke’s worlds, "to love the questions themselves."

Read an excerpt.

81 pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | © 1995

Phoenix Poets



"Whether telling her students the story of her life, reliving adolescent sex, or confronting her own fears, silliness and ambition, Mazur never gives in to sentiment. Meditative, musical, direct, her poems frequently double back on themselves emotionally in a manner that is simultaneously tender and ironic.... Mazur's is a world of time passing.... Her vision of the world is ultimately one of connection, one in which revelation (and what we are able to say about it) lies in the ordinary, 'not golden, or blazing, but homely.'"

The Women's Review of Books

"Forbidden City is a book of wondrous form-finding. These poems are often about art itself, but they have none of the insularity we might associate with 'art for art’s sake.' For Mazur, the pursuit of form is not a matter of neglecting emotional, messy content, much less of writing in traditional measures.... Instead, in all their tonal variety, these poems reveal form as a quality that philosophical concepts and good jokes have in common, a logic of simultaneous surprise and inevitability.... Traveling deftly from raw, existential statement to notes on the fridge, Mazur’s poems are acts of embodiment, giving shape to experience, including the most painful and most ecstatic, the most monumental and most ordinary. I can’t think of another living poet who, while honoring both the need to give shape to life and the inevitability of 'undoing,' has so successfully realized this passion for experience in all its tones and forms."

Provincetown Arts

"Mazur's book is in part about all the loves you can't help--and why should you? It's the love of words (and crowded consonants) that lures the speaker down to earth's noisy company from the silence (and long vowels) of solo flight....I love her bargain, which seems to me to represent the bargain that we all must strike between the griefs and desires we feel when we are split by the knowledge we are living and dying. That's what makes our lives guilty--we can't be guided purely by either kind of knowledge.... It's good to be along for the ride with such a driver gripping the wheel for our dear guilty lives."


Table of Contents

Two Worlds: A Bridge
The Acorn
I’m a Stranger Here Myself
Mensch in the Morning
In Houston
Whatever They Want
Bedroom at Arles
Poem for Christian, My Student
May, Home after a Year Away
Fracture Santa Monica
The Idea of Florida During a Winter Thaw
Snake in the Grass
Why You Travel
After the Storm, August
A Green Watering Can
Ware’s Cove
Pennies from Heaven
Another Tree
Family Plot
The Common
At Boston Garden, the First Night of War, 1991
Poem Ending with Three Lines of Wordsworth’s
Lilacs on Brattle Street
A Small Plane from Boston to Montpelier

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