With empathy and compassion, Hilda Raz writes poems that span her private and public lives. Her poems explore the complexities that come with being alive in the world today.
Hilda Raz has an ability “to tell something every day and make it tough,” says John Kinsella in his introduction. Letter from a Place I’ve Never Been shows readers the evolution of a powerful poet who is also one of the foremost literary editors in the country. Bringing together all seven of her poetry collections, a long out-of-print early chapbook, and her newest work, this collection delights readers with its empathetic and incisive look at the inner and outer lives we lead and the complexities that come with being human.
Showcasing the work of a great American voice, Letter from a Place I’ve Never Been at last allows us to see the full scope and range of Raz’s work.
“Early on in Letter from a Place I’ve Never Been, a speaker worries, ‘What if I’m broken and can’t be mended, / or worse, the world is broken around me / and I the only whole thing in it?’ Here is the Jewish notion of tikkun olam, that it’s our task to repair what is wounded. Indeed, in this impressive collection showcasing more than thirty years of work, Hilda Raz makes an argument for poetry as a way of healing our brokenness. These are poems that remake the world of ‘melt and fracture’—using language that growls from the page—so that it belongs to everyone, all the ‘odd and splendid’ parts of ourselves worthy of examination, of praise.”—Jehanne Dubrow, author of Dots & Dashes and The Arranged Marriage
“I love the immersive experience this book offers. Readers track Raz’s imaginative language across the decades, as she mourns and meditates, catalogs and investigates. Resisting the cultural and technological policing of women’s bodies, the poet evokes illness, recovery, sorrow, and delight. These narrators—gritty, world-loving, tenacious—bind the personal and political in unforgettable family and diasporic narratives. Unprecedented when first published, Raz’s poems about mothering her transgender child have become foundational texts. ‘Some of what I couldn’t stand to lose I lost,’ a narrator states, echoing Elizabeth Bishop, one influence here. Friendship and the natural world console: ‘If the good life is coming / to us in our lifetime, / surely it is here / in this orchard in April at twilight.’ Like her jeweler son’s transformation of wire and gemstone into bracelet and earrings, Raz’s transformations—of body, circumstance, homeplace, passion—work a resilient, wondrous alchemy.”—Robin Becker, author of The Black Bear Inside Me
“To read Hilda Raz’s Letter from a Place I’ve Never Been is to open a precious gift, to sit down to a feast celebrating a life in poetry. If you’ve read Raz’s earlier work, the poems will be old friends, made new by seeing them in this expansive context. If you have not, you have a journey ahead worth any price, let alone the price of a book. Raz’s poems deal with grief, longing, and loss in all their complicated forms but interwoven with transformations that take your breath away. Her poems are in turns lyrical and challenging, but always precise, each word exactly the right word. And at the end of Letter from a Place I’ve Never Been, there are the new poems waiting to be discovered and savored, poems which, to quote a title in the book, serve as ‘Letters from a Lost Language,’ that haunting, that beautiful.”—Jesse Lee Kercheval, author of America that island off the coast of France