The Extraordinary Tide: New Poetry by American Women, edited by Susan Aizenberg and Erin Belieu
Columbia University Press, 2001 (ISBN 0231119631)

      The cover art says it all.  Sketches of women alternately clothed and coolly naked advise the reader what waits within is a collage of visions, some safe, others exposed or vulnerable, and all of them feminine by every definition of the word. 
       The Extraordinary Tide is a book at once both contemporary and timeless, gender specific and yet diverse, all traits that will assure this collection its place in university classrooms for years to come.  It skips along playfully from the erotic awkwardness of Erin Belieu's "Erections" to funky nostalgia of Allison Joseph's "Soul Train" and "Wedding Party."  It laments with the poet Ai in "Chance," then revels in Marilyn Nelson's "Lovesong."  This remarkable collection features an average of three to four poems each from 118 writers, including Olga Broumas, Lynn Emmanuel, Tess Gallagher, Jorie Graham, Naomi Shihab Nye, Linda Pastan, Adrienne Rich, and far too many other talents to name.
       If a flaw is to be found in the book, it exists wholly in the layout.  Unfortunately the designers of this collection, like so many these days, sacrificed aesthetics in order to force as many poems into its pages as possible.  While one cannot expect the beauty and accessibility of one poem per page as in a single-author collection, at least the different writers should be divided in some way.  Instead, the book at times looks cluttered.  The run-on pages scroll through more like a computer screen.  That leads to absurdities such as seeing Carolyn Kizer's 126-line poem "Twelve O'Clock" begin with a mere stanza and a half at the bottom of the righthand page.
       Of course, it would be a mistake to judge these women by the looks of their poems in the book.  They have too much to offer, as does this entire collection.  Beneath the surface, The Extraordinary Tide is a treasure of perspectives.
Book Reviews by Ace Boggess
Reviewed Aug. 3, 2001
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