Alicia Suskin Ostriker’s voice has long been acknowledged as a major force in American poetry. In No Heaven, her eleventh collection, she takes a hint from John Lennon’s “Imagine” to wrestle with the world as it is: “no hell below us, / above us only sky.”
It is a world of cities, including New York, London, Jerusalem, and Berlin, where the poet can celebrate pickup basketball, peace marches, and the energy of graffiti. It is also a world of families, generations coming and going, of love, love affairs, and friendship. Then it is a world full of art and music, of Rembrandt and Bonnard, Mozart and Brahms. Finally, it is a world haunted by violence and war. <I>No Heaven</I> rises to a climax with elegies for Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated by an Israeli zealot, and for the poet’s mother, whose death is experienced in the context of a post‑9/11 impulse to destroy that seems to seduce whole nations.
Yet Ostriker’s ultimate stance is to “Try to praise the mutilated world,” as the poet Adam Zagajewski has counseled. At times lyric, at times satiric, Ostriker steadfastly pursuesin No Heaven her poetics of ardor, a passion for the here and now that has chastened and consoled her many devoted readers.