In her newest book Viper Rum Mary Karr confronts the storm that is coming––dark like the body, death itself––with the poet's knowledge of the soul which is (as she understands it) the poet's grand manufacture, a ‘fiery mist’-light reflected from a far source, and yet more inward to us than ‘the broad rivers of the heart.’ Like Philip Larkin and Seamus Heaney she intends poetry of the plain style and the truth of the unmistakably situated self, but is taught also, by desire (as they are not), to expect that among the deliquescent ruins of the final body there will be found, as she says, ‘illumined, my soul at last uncaged from ribs, rising.’
—Allen Grossman

Viper Rum

Poetry by Mary Karr

Viper Rum is Mary Karr’s first book since The Liars’ Club, which helped to spark a renaissance in memoir. That breathtaking bestseller about her Texas childhood rode The New York Times bestseller list for more than sixty weeks. It was hailed by The Washington Post as “the essential American story, a beauty.” Critic James Atlas likened her to Faulkner. Molly Ivins remarked in The Nation, “[The Liars’ Club] is so good I thought about sending it out for a second opinion… To have a poet’s precision of language and a poet’s insight into people applied to one of the roughest, toughest, ugliest places in America is an astonishing gift.” Now that gift returns to its origins in poetry. Viper Rum delves into the autobiographical subject matter of her two earlier collections (The Devil’s Tour, New Directions, 1994 and Abacus, Wesleyan, 1987). Various beloveds are birthed and buried in these touching lyrics, some of which––as the title suggests––deal with drink: “I cast back to those last years/ I drank, alone nights at the kitchen sink,/ bathrobed, my head hatching snakes,/ while my baby slept in his upstairs cage/ and my marriage choked to death…” Precise and surprising, her poems “take on the bedevilments of fate and grief with a diabolical edge of their own” (Poetry). The prize-winning essay “Against Decoration,” which first set off a controversy in Parnassus, serves as an Afterword. In it, Karr attacks the popular trend toward ornament in contemporary poetry: “the highbrow doily-making that passes for art today.”

Editions: Clothbound

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Clothbound (published April 1, 1998)

ISBN
9780811213820
Price US
19.95

Mary Karr

Contemporary American poet and writer

In her newest book Viper Rum Mary Karr confronts the storm that is coming––dark like the body, death itself––with the poet's knowledge of the soul which is (as she understands it) the poet's grand manufacture, a ‘fiery mist’-light reflected from a far source, and yet more inward to us than ‘the broad rivers of the heart.’ Like Philip Larkin and Seamus Heaney she intends poetry of the plain style and the truth of the unmistakably situated self, but is taught also, by desire (as they are not), to expect that among the deliquescent ruins of the final body there will be found, as she says, ‘illumined, my soul at last uncaged from ribs, rising.’
—Allen Grossman