Warren, The Size of Happiness
pp, ISBN 1-904130-04-6, £8.95 (paperback),
April 21st 2003
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note about The Size of Happiness
Size of Happiness is a book in six sections, the titles of
which hint at the richness and variety of its contents. What
the Amorini Know comes at love from a dozen angles, though
it is especially concerned with the many ways it has of going
wrong; Horses of Poseidon uses ancient myths to debate
modern subjects amongst them, the difficulty of faith,
the question of how far we can penetrate and bend to our purpose
the forces of nature, and the relative significance of a fictional
character and a real person; An Older Beast tackles the
rather older subject of "sad mortality"; and in Clay and Flame
and Managing the Planets the opening and closing
sections of the book Warren's poems ask how to manage the
morsel of world we think we own, how to catch beauty in a net,
how to find the most elusive thing of all happiness.
note on Deborah Warren
Deborah Warren was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1946 and
educated at Harvard University, from where she graduated with
a BA in English. She spent fifteen years working as a teacher
of Latin and English, and ten years as a software engineer, but
she and her husband, who have nine children, now raise heifers
on a farm in Vermont, while living across the border in Massachusetts.
Although Warren only began writing poetry seven years ago, her
work has been published in a wide variety of journals, amongst
them the Hudson Review, the New Criterion, the Paris
Review and the Yale Review. in 2000 she received the
Robert Penn Warren Prize, in 2001 the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award,
and in 2002 the Robert Frost Award. In 2000, she was also runner-up
for the T.S. Eliot Prize (US). The Size of Happiness is
her first book.
for The Size of Happiness
"If there are still people out there clinging to that old
canard about the tendency of formal verse to inhibit the poet,
they need this book. It's full of poems fresh, quirky,
intelligent, moving, individual and spoken in the living voice
of the present that attest to the inexhaustible capacity
of rhyme and meter to serve the needs of every age. There are
poems here that draw their material from daily life, the Bible,
history and legend, the observation of nature, this morning's
paper, memory, the world of art and music, and the bottomless
well of parental concern.
Deborah Warren's themes are those that never age or lose their
bite: the joys and perils of each day, the risks imposed by love,
the preparation for aging and death. The language is beautiful
and precise and equally important determined
to communicate with the rest of us.
Come to think of it, the rest of us those who have
never doubted that formal excellence is an asset
also need it, for the sheer delight of reading it. In fact, let
me say this outright: everybody who can read needs this book."
Rhina P. Espaillat
"What I like about Deborah Warren's superb new collection is that
I can read it from start to finish with enjoyment. The poems combine
imagination with intelligence, music with emotional energy. The
language sparkles in poem after poem. The book is full of lines
and stanzas that the reader simply must linger over to savor.
I know of no other, truer, test of poetry than that it demands
a place in one's memory." Dana Gioia
Warren is among the very finest American poets who still observe
the strictures of meter and rhyme. She informs her work with lively
feeling, wit, wisdom, and memorable music; she keeps us sitting
up and interested. This collection, long overdue, is sure to find
readers who will cherish it." X.J. Kennedy
Reviews of The Size of Happiness
Magazine, April-May, 2004
best poems, rural, domestic or both, give evidence of a sharp,
observant mind. 'Elizabeth's Dress' is a good example of this
poet's varied, conversational, ready-to-be-amused, and always
dress was not the red of claret,
not maroon or amethyst or rose.
Vermillion? Not exactly. Was it scarlet?
Ruby? Poppy? Crimson? None of those.
can have you read the way the velvet
poured itself around her narrow ankles
tell you how it showed her shoulders: What
I can't describe (except by saying not
and cataloguing everything it wasn't)
would make it flesh and blood and living
a thing like color? Dim description doesn't
splash you with the dye that dyed the dress
or turn your head or make you catch your breath
and if I could make you see its shade of red,
I still could not describe Elizabeth."
Hudson Review, spring 2004
... Deborah Warren is a farmer (she raises heifers in Vermont),
and most of the poems in her collection The Size of Happiness
draw either on that experience or on Greek or Roman mythology
(she is also a former Latin teacher), or both. One poem memorializes
a javelin thrower who 'had an ear for the javelin perfect
pitch'; another reflects on 'how dumb the Trojans were' to accept
that outsized equine offering from the Greeks: 'It doesn't take
much horse-sense to deny / your stable to a thing like that.'
The enjoyably clever Warren is clearly at home among Hercules,
Poseidon, and hera (not to mention Proust and Grieg); but she
is also able to bang out, for example, a neat poem about e-mail
that doesn't seem out of place amidst the antiquities ... [She
has] and effortless ability to seque from silly puns to sober
thought about Ultimate Questions, all the while keeping the pentameter
in line." Bruce Bawer
The Size of Happiness
Size of Happiness
thirty cows - another seven
acres fenced for grazing, in a field
that last year looked a good halfway to heaven;
but the very week the sixty yield
that extra hundredweight of milk, already
looking beyond that pasture, where the hill
runs right into the sky: It's not enough.
That's happiness. You never drink your fill -
love, money, land. The milk you're dreaming of?
Even before production's holding steady
beyond what you'd have ever thought:
Couldn't your herd-average be higher?
Fields that once you never could have bought;
lovers that once you hardly dared desire;
visions - gallons - once they're in the can -
very afternoon your new tank's full
of fresh ambition: Sixty Ayrshires -
impossible? Not only possible
but insufficient. Dream of mountain pastures;
own them, and you're back where you began.
is the only kind of plenty,
and that's the domain of cows, who know the size
of happiness. With ten - a hundred twenty -
no matter how many cows your new barn ties,
you're several acres short of paradise.
The Armada Hedge (1588)
Court, King's Sutton
is the tallest hedge in England, planted
near the house to celebrate
the victory. It's this grey rain, wind-slanted,
grew it green and straight:
English clouds, like damp artillery,
are waging today the same campaign
that drove the hedge's green ascendancy -
the lawn with rain.
I rest I rust, the sundial says:
in rain the hours disappear.
Sometimes - rarely - a watery sun displays
as a shadow here.
grass here is as green as Spain is dry;
the hedge, as green as blood would be
if blood were green. No evergreen can try
fleeting time - the same prevailing rain
that routs both slow and nimble, with a breath
as cold as the Protestant Wind that harried Spain
catholic as death.
Warren's poem "Two Swallows" won her the Firman Houghton Award
for 2002. This Award is bestowed by the New England Poetry Club,
which was founded in 1915 by Amy Lowell, Robert Frost and Conrad