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Zeppo’s First Wife

New and Selected Poems

from Enormously Sad
. . . Sad, so sad-compared to what?
To your earlier more oblivious state?
It never was oblivious enough-
always those presentiments of sadness
prickling the limbic. Now a voice says, Get outside
yourself, go walk on the flats. The tide’s gone out—
but your little metal detector will detect little metallic coins
of enormous sadness in the teeming wet sand,
and then, the tide will come back, erasing, cleansing!
And you, standing there in the salty scouring air-
will you still be enormously sad,
While the other world, outside your tiny purview, struck
by iron, reels? World of intentional iron, pure savage
organized iron of the world, it hasn’t the time
that you have for your puny enormous sadness.

Widely acclaimed for expanding the stylistic boundaries of both the narrative and meditative lyric, Gail Mazur’s poetry crackles with verbal invention as she confronts the inevitable upheavals of a lived life. Zeppo’s First Wife, which includes excerpts from Mazur’s four previous books, as well as twenty-two new poems, is epitomized by the worldly longing of the title poem, with its searching poignancy and comic bravura. Mazur’s explorations of “this fallen world, this loony world” are deeply moving acts of empathy by a singular moral sensibility—evident from the earliest poem included here, the much-anthologized “Baseball,” a stunning bird’s-eye view of human foibles and passions. Clear-eyed, full of paradoxical griefs and appetites, her poems brave the most urgent subjects—from the fraught luscious Eden of the ballpark, to the fragility of our closest human ties, to the implications for America in a world where power and war are cataclysmic for the strong as well as the weak.

Read an excerpt.

264 pages | 6 1/8 x 8 1/2 | © 2005

Phoenix Poets



"A ’new and selected’ collection of poetry affords the reader many pleasures a single volume of poetry rarely does. Looming large among these is the chance to track the writer’s growth as an artist. And, because of the broader
canvas, one might get from a “new and selected” group of poems a firmer sense of the writer’s preoccupations in theme and subject matter. Probably the greatest pleasure, however, is the chance to pin down what has drawn one to the work time and again. This became apparent to me as I read the nearly three hundred pages of Zeppo’s First Wife by Gail Mazur, a ’new and selected’ collection that gathers twenty-two new poems and a very generous selection from Ms. Mazur’s four previous books. Judging by my marginal notes and underlining, I am invariably taken by the
exquisitely crafted endings of her poems. Book by book, year after year, her poems startle and move the reader with their capacity to end on a note that belongs to her and no one else. Gail Mazur, it seems, is a master of poetic closure. . . . I think the endings of Gail Mazur’s poems, no matter how sad, frightened, or perplexed, offer us a luminous quality . . . a quality that marks these new and selected poems from beginning to end."

Fred Marchant | Provincetown Arts

"We dream of living on poetry’s high ground, the giddy air and wide prospect that distance us from the drear of everyday life. Yet the brisk, eloquent, and quirky poems of Gail Mazur’s Zeppo’s First Wife may prove that there is more oxygen at ground level. Mazur finds a magic in the everyday, the delights and disorders that characterize a postmodern and multi-everything America."

David Gewanter | Tikkun

“Audacity and modesty: In Mazur’s work, those apparent opposites reveal their secret kinship: Modesty from its place on the sidelines can see through the conventional sham of the rules, and audacity has the confidence to embrace the plain, ordinary truth. In the face of demons or emptiness, Mazur offers a song...Part of the pleasure in these poems is their simultaneous large scope and measured, deceptively quiet voice."”

Robert Pinsky | Washington Post

Table of Contents


New Poems
Enormously Sad
Blue Umbrella
American Ghazal
At First, They
Dana Street, December
The Swamp Trail
The Mission
Cape Air
Cemetery Road
Night Visitation
Black Ducks
A Small Door
To Whoever May Be Concerned:
Rudy’s Tree
To X
Seven Sons
Zeppo’s First Wife

They Can’t Take That Away From Me (2001)
Five Poems Entitled "Questions"
Maybe It’s Only the Monotony
Not Crying
I Wish  I Want  I Need
Young Apple Tree, December
The Weskit
Last Night
My Dream After Mother Breaks Her Hip
They Can’t Take That Away from Me
At the Ear, Nose, and Throat Clinic
Girl in a Library
Twenty Lines before Breakfast
Wakeful before Tests
Two Bedrooms
Michelangelo: To Giovanni da Pistoia When the Author Was Painting the Vault of the Sistine Chapel
Air Drawing
Leah’s Dream
Right Now
Keep Going
The Beach
Low Tide
To Begin This Way Every Day
Three Provincetown Mornings
Insomnia at Daybreak

The Common (1995)
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

From The Pose of Happiness (1986)
Mashpee, 1979
Mashpee, 1952
After the Fire
Mashpee Wine
Reading Akhmatova
Next Door
Fallen Angels
In the Dark Our Story
In the Garment District
A Deck of Cards
Being Sick
Elementary Education
The Horizontal Man
Early Winter
Norumbega Park
Hurricane Watch
Dog Days, Sweet Everlasting
Longfellow Park, August
Dutch Tulips
Listening to Baseball in the Car
Two Months in the Country
To RTSL, 1985
Spring Planting

From Nightfire (1978)


Massachusetts Center for the Book: Mass Book Awards

The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College: Paterson Poetry Prize

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