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Book Review :: Telling the Truth as It Comes Up by Alice Notley

Guest Post by Susan Kay Anderson

Telling the Truth as It Comes Up Selected Talks & Essays 1991-2018 by Alice Notley is a collection of prose writing that gives opinions and anecdotes of strong interest to reviewers and scholars of contemporary poets and poetics. It is also a great companion to Notley’s poetry, especially her book, At Night the States.

Notley digs deep into dream territory in the first essay, “What Can Be Learned From Dreams?” and says, “This work is also very disobedient” when describing her new work. Because she uses terms and language that are accessible, what is sometimes difficult and complex about poetry becomes transparent and real.

“The Mohave desert is vast with space and one fills it with thoughts and dreams—or I did. I acquired certain habits of thought from growing up in this landscape,” Notley writes in “Dreams, Again.”

I was so happy to find “Where’d You Get It?” her essay on Ed Dorn’s Gunslinger (2018) tucked in between “Musical Influences” and writing about Philip Whalen’s collected poems, “To do exactly that, right now” (2007).

Notley shows and tells what is apparent and transfers her whole self into whatever she discusses. In this collection, she is also a historian of American Poetry, especially the particular dreamscapes that modern technology brought/brings to influence dreams and dreaming.

Telling the Truth as It Comes Up Selected Talks & Essays 1991-2018 by Alice Notley. The Song Cave, November 2024.

Reviewer bio: Susan Kay Anderson lives in southwestern Oregon’s Umpqua River Basin. Her long poem “Man’s West Once” was selected for Barrow Street Journal’s “4 X 2 Project” and is included in Mezzanine (2019). Anderson also published Virginia Brautigan Aste’s memoir, Please Plant This Book Coast To Coast (2021).