Jean Valentine, Minimalist Poet With Maximum Punch, Dies at 86

By | January 7, 2021
Jean Valentine, Minimalist Poet With Maximum Punch, Dies at 86

Jean Valentine, Minimalist Poet With Most Punch, Dies at 86

Certainly, her readers can really feel sure-footed, solely to seek out themselves all of the sudden startled. As she wrote in “A leaf, a shadow-hand,” in its entirety:

A leaf, a shadow-hand
blows over my head
from exterior time
now & then
this time of 12 months, September
—this occurs—
—it’s well-known—
a soul locked away inside
not realizing anybody,
strolling round, however inside:
I used to be like this as soon as,
and also you, whose shadow-hand
(kindness) simply now blew over my head, once more,
you mentioned, “Don’t ever suppose you’re a monster.”

A lot of her poems first appeared in The New Yorker. In an interview, Alice Quinn, the journal’s former poetry editor, described Ms. Valentine’s voice as “intimate and pressing, uttering one thing exact and essential to say simply then.”

Ms. Valentine was not overtly political, however she often touched on public occasions. In “September 1963” — a seismic date in civil rights historical past, when members of the Ku Klux Klan bombed the sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., killing 4 Black ladies — she writes of her harmless trepidation in dropping off her little one on the primary day of college and her aid at seeing the youngsters play collectively.

Glad, derelict, I discover a park bench, learn
Birmingham. Birmingham. Birmingham.
White tears on the white floor.
White world occurring, white hand in hand,
World with out finish.

“That poem is devastating,” the poet Anne Marie Macari, Ms. Valentine’s literary executor, mentioned in an interview. “As an alternative of the poem being an thought, you enter the expertise. You’re feeling the grief in your physique. You’re feeling the grief of historical past in simply these few strains.”

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