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Why/Why Not presents a speaker caught in quandaries created by changing perspectives, fervors, and locales. Why do we act one way here and another there; why can't a mind stay made up; why do we hate and love at the same time; why does memory fade or insist; why does the ordinary seem so uncanny? These questions are captured in lines that collide and merge, in irreverent and offhand jibes, and in plaintive repetitions.
Why/Why Not moves across a vivid terrain—the stage of Hamlet, Phillip Marlowe's Los Angeles, Prague, paintings and gardens—to push through a tangle of ways to make sense of the world. Martha Ronk's poetic language is that of the everyday slightly skewed, as if pieces of an ordinary sentence were missing. Ronk's poems use the repetitive and the banal to explore ways in which language is intertwined with thought and experience.
Martha Ronk is Irma and Jay Price Professor of English at Occidental College. Among her books are Eyetrouble (1998), State of Mind (1995), and Displeasures of the Table (2001).
“Answers questions that rise with enigmatic urgency -- why? why not? -- and the stranger in each of us... is courted passionately.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review
"In Ronk's book, language is in the mood for mischief, while still being acutely attentive to its own unreliability. We're pulled into this sparklingly original work where ordinariness veers coolly and equivocation beguiles. These gorgeously agile poems reveal us as our never-ready and always-ready selves."—Molly Bendall, author of Ariadne's Island
"Ronk, in her 'looking for/ the conjunction of the past and the present,' produces a poetry that questions the context of living, its arrangements, its decisions. Her sure-footed investigation is equaled by its prosody of progression/recursion in a particular lexicon of grace and elegance. Reader, find surprises in this lovely packet of poems."—Norma Cole, author of Spinoza in Her Youth