A review of

The Bad Wife Handbook

by Rachel Zucker

Central question: Is there a correlation between being a bad wife and being a good poet?
Format: 130 pp., cloth; Size: 9" x 7"; Price: $22.95; Publisher: Wesleyan University Press; Editor: Suzannah Tamminen; Print run: 1,200; Book design: Joy Katz; Ratio of short poems to long poems: 23:4; Symbols used to divide sections of long poems: Ø, }, {; Other poets whose lines are quoted: Donald Hall, Brenda Hillman, Alice Notley; Title of photocopied magazine the author publishes: Boomerang!; Author’s other job: labor support doula; Representative lines: “the Empire State building amazing / with her glinting, ramrod posture, suddenly // alone above her waist-high charges.”

Rachel Zucker may be Generation X’s likeliest heir to the confessional legacy of Sylvia Plath, Louise Glück, and Sharon Olds. At her best, she matches desperate, pained self-revelation with breakneck lines that spill in and out of long-lined verse and writhing prose. Her previous book, The Last Clear Narrative, is an indispensable study of the passionate ambivalence that is a part of love. This third collection attempts to follow up with a tellingly unclear narrative: the story of a devoted wife and mother struggling with the pain and self-doubt that fidelity to a husband and children can engender. While the difficulties in rendering this conflicted state of mind muddy some of these poems—and occasional obscurity may be the price of the kind of naked confession this poet is after—Zucker has once again created a book that draws the reader through the shadows of family life.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Craig Morgan Teicher

Craig Morgan Teicher’s first book is Brenda Is in the Room and Other Poems. His second, a collection of fables called Cradle Book, will be out in 2010.

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