Cover image for Squares and courtyards
Squares and courtyards
Hacker, Marilyn, 1942-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton & Co., [2000]

Physical Description:
107 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3558.A28 S69 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Moving back and forth with the rhythm of the writer's life, from Paris to New York, from the 1990s to the 1940s, Squares and Courtyards reminds us that, to take action, it is necessary to take notice.

Author Notes

Marilyn Hacker teaches English at Hofstra University and lives in New York City and in Paris

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

National Book Award^-winner Hacker's ninth collection is a book of midlife. Poem after poem mentions the death of a loved elder, a valued contemporary, or a haphazardly killed youngster. But these aren't keening elegies or somberly resigned memento mori. Hacker is too engaged in living to indulge grief with the youthful passion her daughter shows for a suddenly dead friend or to senescently reminisce and fade away. She is highly observant of how she and her peers react to the crises death imposes on them. Those reactions are vigorous, including such things as helping AIDS and cancer sufferers as well as continuing to appreciate daily realities in Hacker's two cities of residence, New York and Paris. That appreciation culminates in the sequence, "Paragraphs from a Daybook," that concludes the book in a journal-keeping mode. Here, at last, Hacker recalls her past, without a trace of mourning. It is hard to imagine the poetry reader in midlife who won't identify and revel in these poised, intelligently lively, honorably serious poems. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Dailiness and disease fuel the award-winning Hacker's ninth collection of poetry: a grim, painstaking survey of the effects of cancer and HIV on the author's wide circle of loved ones. Hacker conveys a strength of will with an evenness of tone, one that can handle difficult material while offsetting some of the more telegraphed formalism. She is at her strongest when most stark and direct, as in "Twelfth Floor West": "The new bruise on/ her thigh was baffling. They left an armchair/ facing the window: an unspoken goal." The book is separated into two sections, the longer of which, "Scars on Paper," contains 19 shorter poems that harbor some heavy-handed imagery ("She herself/ was now a box of ashes on a shelf/ whose sixteen-year-old-shadow mugged at you/ next to a Beatles poster in your blue/ disheveled bedroom...") and lines that often read like prose broken into triplets, quatrains and unnumbered short sonnet sequences. In the 40-page "Paragraphs from a Daybook," however, Hacker drops her formal guard and finds the emotional pitch and range that most affectingly serve her primary subjects: courage and dignity manifested through ordinary behavior in the face of acute physical breakdown, suffering and societal disdain (several passages take on anti-Semitism)--and searing self-examination: "However well I speak, I have an accent/ tagging my origins: that Teflon fist,/ that hog wallow of investment/ that hegemonic televangelist's/ zeal to dumb the world down to its virulent/ cartoon contours." Readers will find many of the contours here precise and elegant. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Scars on Paper
The Boyp. 13
Scars on Paperp. 15
Tentative Gardeningp. 19
A Colleaguep. 21
Days of 1994: Alexandriansp. 22
Invocationp. 24
Broceliandep. 25
Griefp. 26
Directionsp. 30
Street Scenes: Sunday Eveningp. 34
Wednesday I.D. Clinicp. 37
Twelfth Floor Westp. 39
Long Island Railroadp. 40
Squares and Courtyardsp. 41
April Coupletsp. 46
Again, the Riverp. 48
Taking Leave of Zenkap. 52
Rue de Belleymep. 56
Letter to Munnsville N.Y. from the Rue de Turennep. 59
Paragraphs from a Daybook
Paragraphs from a Daybookp. 67