Nebraska Center for Writers

Chimney Rock What the Critics Say
About Grace Bauer

BEHOLDING EYE
FIELD GUIDE TO THE INEFFABLE
THE HOUSE WHERE I'VE NEVER LIVED
RETREATS AND RECOGNITIONS
UMPTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A POSSUM
WHERE YOU'VE SEEN HER
THE WOMEN AT THE WELL




Beholding Eye
Copyright © 2006
by Grace Bauer
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Grace Bauer turns the power of her own piercing gaze onto the world of art in her stunning new poetry collection Beholding Eye. The worlds of art and artifice, the creative life and created lives: nothing escapes her scrutiny. Beholding Eye is a wonder to behold. — from the publisher

Grace Bauer, in her brilliant new book of ekphrastic poems, deploys the voices of artists and their subjects to consider matters of identity, power, class, anger, and erotics. With her usual high wit, the poet revises the location and meaning of worth and beauty. Bauer's formal skill serves to illuminate the 'thick and pungent' paint caked on the hands of the maker, as well as the 'civility and containment' we must shun to enter 'A-R-T' — which is what this book does after all: enters its subject to become pure art. Brava! — Hilda Raz, editor of Prairie Schooner and author of Trans

If Browning's Last Duchess were to step out of her canvas and begin reading Walter Benjamin on art and late-stage capitalism, she might produce a book similar to Grace Bauer's Beholding Eye. These smart, funny ekphrastic poems surprise the reader on every page and surprise anew with each rereading. What Bauer says of Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase could pertain equally well to her own poetry: it is 'designed to disrobe the viewer / . . . to change /forever how we see.' — Julie Kane, author of Rhythm and Booze

Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Carolyn Kizer — let them make room for Grace Bauer. Sexton's equal in sardonic vision, Bishop’s equal in the music of speech, Kizer's equal in rapier wit. ... I, for one, will try to read every word that this woman writes. — Will Slattery in ONTHEBUS

Just a couple of her titles from poems in her latest effort, Beholding Eye, give the reader a hint of the high wit involved in her intelligence: "She Calms the Savage Beast With Her Aubade," and ""She Thinks She Smells a Bad Metaphor." Many of these poems are the ultimate reviews of artworks, which are art themseslves. They stake out a territory, huge in imagination, bold in risks, and beautiful in what the eye beholds or thinks it does. Grace Bauer is also sure about her wordplay and realistic about all our expectations of romance. No one will likely be tempted to ask this woman: so what else can you do with words? — Reader Views

There are numerous small touches in Beholding Eye to recommend it; Bauer sees paintings with uncommon clarity, and her impersonations of different characters are vivid. — Bookslut


Field Guide to the Ineffable
Copyright © 1999
by Grace Bauer
Snail's Pace Press
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Field Guide to the Ineffable: Poems on Marcel Duchamp is poet Grace Bauer's fourth book. Playful, learned, idiosyncratic, witty, ironic, it speaks to savvy readers who are at home with paradox. With its exquisitely colored Duchamp cover and its careful and extensive notes, this amuse-geule by a major poet has been published by Snail's Pace Press for a discerning audience of connoisseurs. — Frigatezine

Bauer's poems are, as a group, a paean to the accidental, even to zaniness. — The Literary Review


Retreats and Recognitions
Copyright © 2007
by Grace Bauer
Lost Horse Press
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All one has to do is read "Note From the Imaginary Daughter," the first poem in Grace Bauer's Retreats and Recognitions, and you'll be caught in the grip of psychological drama and an evocative imagination that will make you want to read further. Bauer's poems probe the dark landscapes between impression and apprehension, the past and its repetition though imaginative transformation, impulse and restraint. Her delivery is tough and terse; her imagery is fresh and often startling. There is experience and authority in her voice. She can be immensely witty, as in "Plot Lines," where she improvises on the word, tale, or virtuoso as in her intricate sestina, "A Little Like Dorothy." Succinct, like "Awakened By the Fall," and evocative, like "Lunacy." Her poems are poignant, intelligent, and believable. Poetry lovers, read this book! — Robert Pack, author of Elk in Winter and Composing Voices, and final judge for the Idaho Prize for Poetry 2006

Grace Bauer has a rare power: whether it is the appearance of Mormon missionaries at her door or finding an answer to an eight year old boy's question, "What's Nebraska?" she transforms life into perfect poems. In this collection, her poems connect to the world through personal history (days spent in Nebraska, New Orleans, and Greece) and popular culture (Blanche Dubois, Norma Jean Baker and Dorothy, formerly of Oz, all make guest appearances) in ways that combine the comic and the elegiac. In the wonderful poem "Revising My Vita," she examines her life through the lens of that ship's log of academic career, the CV, and finds "life is a course of study I will/ never really be sure I've passed." All the strong poems in Retreats & Recognitions are grounded in the reality of detail, though Bauer is smart enough to realize how often the real mimics the surreal in a world where Krishnas cruise Bourbon Street. Retreats & Recognitions is a book where memory and imagination converge. — Jesse Lee Kercheval

"The bad boys inside good girls" hurrah Bauer's new book where a crucifix bonks Mom on the head and "the road to ruin looks scenic." You lucky reader, you. — Terese Svoboda


Umpteen Ways of Looking at a Possum
Copyright © 2006
by Grace Bauer
Xavier Review Press
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Umpteen Ways of Looking at a Possum examines and celebrates the life and work of legendary New Orleans poet Everette Maddox. Maddox, who taught poetry at University of Alabama, Xavier University, and University of New Orleans, is well known throughout the region for his colorful, idiosyncratic poetry, as well as the organizer and master of ceremonies for a long-running series of open mike poetry readings at New Orleans's equally storied Maple Leaf Bar. The readings continue today, seventeen years after Maddox's untimely death in 1989. Maddox's poetry, which appeared in The Paris Review, The New Yorker, and other literary magazines, was collected in The Thirteen Original Poems (1976), The Everette Maddox Song Book (1982), Bar Scotch (1988), and the posthumous collections American Waste (1993) and Rette's Last Stand (2004).
Editors Julie Kane, a professor of English at Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, Louisiana, and Grace Bauer, professor of English at University of Nebraska, Lincoln, knew Everette Maddox and his circle, and have gathered together an impressive array of writers for this book. Among them are RS Gwynn, Ralph Adamo, Randolph Bates, Ken Fontenot, Nancy Harris, Rodney Jones, David Kunian, William Lavender, Doug MacCash, William Matthews, Sharon Olinka, Randall Schroth, Gail White, Stan Bemis, Steve Brooks, George Burton III, Maxine Cassin, Christopher Chambers, Carlos Colon, Peter Cooley, Joel Dailey, Louis Gallo, Michael Greene, William Harmon, Karen Head, Harry de la Houssaye, Fred Kasten, William Maddox, Martha McFerren, Christopher Munford, Kay Murphy, Spike Perkins, Manfred Pollard, JC Reilly, Louie Skipper, Robert Stock, Leon Stokesbury, Helen Toye, Gail White, Carolyne Wright, Ahmos Zu-Bolton II, Ellen Gilchrist, Richard Katrovas, Katheryn Krotzer LaBorde, Bill Roberts, Vicki Salloum, Richard Kilbourne, Errol Laborde, and Susan Larson. — from the publisher


Where You've Seen Her
Copyright © 1993
by Grace Bauer
Pennywhistle Press
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In Where You've Seen Her, Grace Bauer gives us a collection of female characters journeying from loneliness and alienation to a rich and many-layered self-acceptance. With humor and a redemptive connection to art and nature, Bauer's unnamed women travel into thickets of disappointing social and intimate relationships. Bauer invites her readers to reflect on the many "selves" within us by showing us the housewife, the princess, the old woman, the junky. Finally, one character speaks of "this face / which wears with / pride or regret / what it has / come through."
In poem after poem, Bauer's female characters tangle with psychological and social realities. One such battle involves the struggle with a patriarchal landscape peopled with male artists and myths about women. Composers and musicians, poets and novelists fill these stanzas and assert their hegemonic power. As Bauer's personae figures begin to articulate other possible realities, the structures (and art forms) begin to break down. Addressing Wallace Stevens in one poem, she declares, "There is no idea of order / here in Key West."
Personifying "Romance" and "Sorrow" as two difficult courtships, Bauer revises the female narrative, thereby thwarting the predictable story for women. In "Her Great Escape," one female character refuses seduction by "Romance," aware that what he's offering is "unreliable as the moon / reflected on the trunk of the Pinto / that's parked down the block." In "Her Steady Date With Sorrow," the feisty female character decides to embrace the companionship which Sorrow offers, thus transforming her loneliness: "At least, she thinks, she'll never lack company. / He's loyal. Consistent." Bauer's free verse stanzas show a careful attention to linebreaks and the musical qualities of language. Occasionally, she surprises her readers by employing formal verse and combining it with a wry humor, as in the skillful and playfully self-mocking villanelle entitled "For Her Villain."
Grace Bauer's project in Where You've Seen Her is to examine the process by which we all come to consciousness — within the larger, socially-constructed world. Near the middle of the book, in a poem entitled "She Changes Frogs," one character uses fairy tale imagery to focus upon romantic love, a central concern of the collection: "There comes the once upon a time / when the princess / has to ask herself: / is all this worth it / for just one golden ball?" Though Bauer never answers the question directly, her poems show a decided movement towards independence and integration of the many selves within.
Accompanying Bauer's characters on this journey is an intimate experience for the reader. In a poem entitled "His Light Meters. Her Dark Rooms," our narrator states: "there is no beauty / in the subject, as object...." Perhaps this poem is Bauer's "guide" to her understanding of the role of the artist in any culture. Poet or photographer, the artist "makes" a world — selecting, arranging, enlarging — and invites us to enter. Where You've Seen Her gives us a world of many narratives; taken together, they tell a multivoiced tale of how we become the subjects of our own stories. — Robin Becker


The Women at the Well
Copyright © 1997
by Grace Bauer
Portals Press
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Robert Graves said Jesus came to declare war on the Female and all her works; I say Grace Bauer has come to fight back. — Martha McFerrin

In The Women at the Well, Grace Bauer sings out of silence alternative stories of the Biblical women she first encountered as a schoolgirl listening to the nuns. Wry humor is only one element of Bauer's illuminating re-vision as she inhabits her women in their longing, sassiness, rebellion, compassion, wavering, and triumph. She lets them like each other — Rachel and Leah reconcile — and lets them relish their bodies — Mary complains about never "knowing pleasure." She creates The Prodigal Daughter who, like Woolf's Judith Shakespeare, experiences a vastly different fate from her male counterpart's. But unlike poor Judith, this daughter survives and bears her own girl child....I had my favorites among Bauer's women, and you will too. Whoever they are, the Bible will never be the same. — Carole Simmons Oles

"And I know what courage it takes / to tell it right," says Lilith in Grace Bauer's fiesty retelling of stories based on the Old and New Testaments. Funny, wry, always suprising and smart, Bauer's women get it right and speak for us in the tradition of revisionist mythmaking we cherish these last days of the twentieth century. Read The Women at the Well. You'll like it. — Hilda Raz

Reading [The Women at the Well] is like entering a roomful of fascinating women that you thought you already knew, only each one now takes you aside to share some new facet of herself about which you previously had no clue. — Barbara C. Ewell

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