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"A thrilling meditation on the passages of a woman's life."—O, The Oprah Magazine “Landau's killer wit evokes Dorothy Parker crossed with Sylvia Plath—leaping spark after spark, growing to deadly dark fire. The Uses of the Body is her best book, its acerbic tone interspersed with lines of grave and startling beauty.” —Los Angeles Times "Like Richard Linklater's Boyhood,but f "A thrilling meditation on the passages of a woman's life."—O, The Oprah Magazine “Landau's killer wit evokes Dorothy Parker crossed with Sylvia Plath—leaping spark after spark, growing to deadly dark fire. The Uses of the Body is her best book, its acerbic tone interspersed with lines of grave and startling beauty.” —Los Angeles Times "Like Richard Linklater's Boyhood,but for girls (and women): Deborah Landau's vividly relatable third collection, The Uses of the Body, reminds us that coming of age lasts well beyond adolescence.” —Vogue * “As freshly immediate as ever, award-winning poet Landau reveals that ‘the uses of the body are manifold,’ moving in four sections with a roughly chronological feel from wedding parties to flabby bodies around the pool to the realization ‘But we already did everything’—all with an underlying sense of urgency: ‘Life please explain.’ As Landau explores her physical self and her sexuality, she’s tart, witty, fluid, direct, and brutally honest, and her work can be appreciated by any reader.”—Library Journal,starred review "Deborah Landau . . . is both confessional and direct, like Sylvia Plath and Allen Ginsberg. Her taut, elegant, highly controlled constructions meditate upon yearning and selfhood."—Booklist Deborah Landau's Uses of the Body presents the very specific challenges of womanhood. Her poems address what it means to be alive—right now—in a female body. She fills her poetry with compelling nouns: wine glasses, bridal gowns, and "books and teacups and ghosts." And what ghosts: underneath evocative images and poetic play, there's a moving, yearning mysticism. From "Mr and Mrs End of Suffering": The uses of the body are wake up. The uses of the body, illusion. The uses of the body. Rinse repeat. To make another body. September. Draw the blanket up. Lace your shoes. The major and minor passions. Sunlight. Hair. The basic pleasures. Tomatoes, Keats, meeting a smart man for a drink. The uses of the body. It is only a small house. It gets older. Its upper and lower. Its red and white trim. It's tempting to gloss over this part, so you won't really see me. Deborah Landau is the author of two books of poetry. She was educated at Stanford, Columbia, and Brown, where she earned her PhD. Currently she is the director of the NYU Creative Writing Program and lives in New York City.


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"A thrilling meditation on the passages of a woman's life."—O, The Oprah Magazine “Landau's killer wit evokes Dorothy Parker crossed with Sylvia Plath—leaping spark after spark, growing to deadly dark fire. The Uses of the Body is her best book, its acerbic tone interspersed with lines of grave and startling beauty.” —Los Angeles Times "Like Richard Linklater's Boyhood,but f "A thrilling meditation on the passages of a woman's life."—O, The Oprah Magazine “Landau's killer wit evokes Dorothy Parker crossed with Sylvia Plath—leaping spark after spark, growing to deadly dark fire. The Uses of the Body is her best book, its acerbic tone interspersed with lines of grave and startling beauty.” —Los Angeles Times "Like Richard Linklater's Boyhood,but for girls (and women): Deborah Landau's vividly relatable third collection, The Uses of the Body, reminds us that coming of age lasts well beyond adolescence.” —Vogue * “As freshly immediate as ever, award-winning poet Landau reveals that ‘the uses of the body are manifold,’ moving in four sections with a roughly chronological feel from wedding parties to flabby bodies around the pool to the realization ‘But we already did everything’—all with an underlying sense of urgency: ‘Life please explain.’ As Landau explores her physical self and her sexuality, she’s tart, witty, fluid, direct, and brutally honest, and her work can be appreciated by any reader.”—Library Journal,starred review "Deborah Landau . . . is both confessional and direct, like Sylvia Plath and Allen Ginsberg. Her taut, elegant, highly controlled constructions meditate upon yearning and selfhood."—Booklist Deborah Landau's Uses of the Body presents the very specific challenges of womanhood. Her poems address what it means to be alive—right now—in a female body. She fills her poetry with compelling nouns: wine glasses, bridal gowns, and "books and teacups and ghosts." And what ghosts: underneath evocative images and poetic play, there's a moving, yearning mysticism. From "Mr and Mrs End of Suffering": The uses of the body are wake up. The uses of the body, illusion. The uses of the body. Rinse repeat. To make another body. September. Draw the blanket up. Lace your shoes. The major and minor passions. Sunlight. Hair. The basic pleasures. Tomatoes, Keats, meeting a smart man for a drink. The uses of the body. It is only a small house. It gets older. Its upper and lower. Its red and white trim. It's tempting to gloss over this part, so you won't really see me. Deborah Landau is the author of two books of poetry. She was educated at Stanford, Columbia, and Brown, where she earned her PhD. Currently she is the director of the NYU Creative Writing Program and lives in New York City.

30 review for The Uses of the Body

  1. 4 out of 5

    D.A.

    Deborah Landau's audacity is searing and ineffaceable. I have been indelibly and delightfully scarred by her work: Before you have kids, you get a dog. Then when you get a baby, you wait for the dog to die. When the dog dies, it's a relief. When your babies aren't babies, you want a dog again. Poetry lives for such bold music and acuminate wit. Landau's poems are living monsters that will eat your brains. Deborah Landau's audacity is searing and ineffaceable. I have been indelibly and delightfully scarred by her work: Before you have kids, you get a dog. Then when you get a baby, you wait for the dog to die. When the dog dies, it's a relief. When your babies aren't babies, you want a dog again. Poetry lives for such bold music and acuminate wit. Landau's poems are living monsters that will eat your brains.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    Beautiful. I devoured this book and then immediately reread it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    Random words. Punctuation weird, yeah. Thoughts scrambly. Did not connect. Not even a little.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Clark

    This collection was so resonant for me. I read it and then went straight back to the beginning to read it over again.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sanjay Varma

    I liked some moments. Here are a few stanzas from "Mr and Mrs End of Suffering" where her plain, direct, clipped language works quite well: In opera you get what you need It's not marriage A man to sleep with. A place to lay my head at night. He knows every road of me. Can find the turnoff without a map. Can drive along the low stone wall In the dark until he reaches the open field But honestly, her style didn't resonate with me. Many of her poems read like drafts instead of final versions. For example, I liked some moments. Here are a few stanzas from "Mr and Mrs End of Suffering" where her plain, direct, clipped language works quite well: In opera you get what you need It's not marriage A man to sleep with. A place to lay my head at night. He knows every road of me. Can find the turnoff without a map. Can drive along the low stone wall In the dark until he reaches the open field But honestly, her style didn't resonate with me. Many of her poems read like drafts instead of final versions. For example, from "Minutes, Years": If the brakes don't work. If the pesticides won't wash off. If the seventh floor pushes a brick Out the window and it lands on my head. If a tremor, menopause. Cancer. ALS. These are the ABCs of my fear.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    This was an enjoyable summer read. Though you can move through the collection quickly, the poems could be discusses at length. My favorite sections were Mr and Mrs End of Suffering & The City of Paris Has You in Mind Tonight. Some of the poems are more abstract than what I generally appreciate, but I like Landau's use of language: "The major and minor passions./Sunlight. Hair./The basic pleasures. Tomatoes, Keats,/meeting a smart man for a drink." and "with book and teacups and ghosts/and time ampl This was an enjoyable summer read. Though you can move through the collection quickly, the poems could be discusses at length. My favorite sections were Mr and Mrs End of Suffering & The City of Paris Has You in Mind Tonight. Some of the poems are more abstract than what I generally appreciate, but I like Landau's use of language: "The major and minor passions./Sunlight. Hair./The basic pleasures. Tomatoes, Keats,/meeting a smart man for a drink." and "with book and teacups and ghosts/and time ample, a slow greedy feast./If there's no one to walk with all over this city/you can go to the movies can hurry stop/buy a bunch of lavender, a book, a pastry/be someone distinct true personal and new."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Terri

    This is a delicious little book of poetry. Landau's writing about the body and how we move through the world is evocative, sensual, intimate, and powerful. Because I had a baby this year, I was especially drawn to her poems about new motherhood. When she describes being home with a newborn like being snowed in with summer - that stayed with me so clearly. Her other poems spoke to me too - she made me smell ripe, damp Earth and rainy city streets. Will definitely be reading more. This is a delicious little book of poetry. Landau's writing about the body and how we move through the world is evocative, sensual, intimate, and powerful. Because I had a baby this year, I was especially drawn to her poems about new motherhood. When she describes being home with a newborn like being snowed in with summer - that stayed with me so clearly. Her other poems spoke to me too - she made me smell ripe, damp Earth and rainy city streets. Will definitely be reading more.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alisa

    Contemporary... "Jen says, Try to see the whole landscape of your life, not just the part that's collopasing." or "Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Mr and Mrs of the moment now and dancing. Mr and Mrs End of Suffering Mr and Mrs Safe and Headed Where." Will read DL's other collections, for sure. Contemporary... "Jen says, Try to see the whole landscape of your life, not just the part that's collopasing." or "Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Mr and Mrs of the moment now and dancing. Mr and Mrs End of Suffering Mr and Mrs Safe and Headed Where." Will read DL's other collections, for sure.

  9. 5 out of 5

    James

    A brutally honest and journey through poetry of a woman's life. It captures the questioning soul striving for answers through being single, being married, and becoming a mother, and finding none. Throughout it is an acerbic, funny, provocative meditation on what being a woman means in contemporary life. Highly recommended. A brutally honest and journey through poetry of a woman's life. It captures the questioning soul striving for answers through being single, being married, and becoming a mother, and finding none. Throughout it is an acerbic, funny, provocative meditation on what being a woman means in contemporary life. Highly recommended.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Into it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Simeon Berry

    Micro-blurb: sly dispatches from a wonderfully untenable embodiment.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Andrea MacPherson

    3.5 stars Some lovely images and lines, very engaging. It did feel a bit repetitive in the long poems; I would have liked to see further variety in voice and form.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Whitney Archer

    I really liked certain poems, especially "I don't cook, but I could make a baby." I really liked certain poems, especially "I don't cook, but I could make a baby."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mark Ballinger

    Kind of a mixed set of pieces here, but the ones that were good were really good. Plenty of deep, evocative poems that hit me right where I need them.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Christie

    "Meanwhile August moved toward its impervious finale. / A mood by the river. Gone. One lucid rush carrying them along. Borderless and open the days go on--" "Meanwhile August moved toward its impervious finale. / A mood by the river. Gone. One lucid rush carrying them along. Borderless and open the days go on--"

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    These dare you awake. They are the voice, raw after crying, after thinking, stripped of anything that would get in the way of telling it real. I loved the stickiness of life and bodies these let me know, and very much the straight-eyed view of motherhood. We were fitful but happy we were facing off, figurines a big one and a little one dog's breath, armed and arming, we were sour and acid, milky and sweet, were visceral and snowed in in summer and this was celebrated and this was supreme. These dare you awake. They are the voice, raw after crying, after thinking, stripped of anything that would get in the way of telling it real. I loved the stickiness of life and bodies these let me know, and very much the straight-eyed view of motherhood. We were fitful but happy we were facing off, figurines a big one and a little one dog's breath, armed and arming, we were sour and acid, milky and sweet, were visceral and snowed in in summer and this was celebrated and this was supreme.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    Some nice lines/turn of phrase but nothing more than that. I didn't feel personally connected to it apart from this page: Before you have kids, You get a dog. Then when you get a baby, You wait for the dog to die. When the dog dies, it's a relief. When your babies aren't babies, You want a dog again. Some nice lines/turn of phrase but nothing more than that. I didn't feel personally connected to it apart from this page: Before you have kids, You get a dog. Then when you get a baby, You wait for the dog to die. When the dog dies, it's a relief. When your babies aren't babies, You want a dog again.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I always love to discover a poet that I haven’t read before. Layers of meaning, layers of life. Beautiful interpretations. The heart always awakens by a greater fraction when we find something that inspires us.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Not accessible enough, even for poetry.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Smith

    I'm reading almost exclusively women when it comes to poetry. I like this one, the poems are short, a little on the abstract side and have a bouncy rhythm to them. I'm reading almost exclusively women when it comes to poetry. I like this one, the poems are short, a little on the abstract side and have a bouncy rhythm to them.

  21. 4 out of 5

    meghan

    This one grew on me as I read. I'll need to re-read it to appreciate the early poems in the collection. This one grew on me as I read. I'll need to re-read it to appreciate the early poems in the collection.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    If The Last Usable Hour, Landau's second collection, explores the meaning of desire in a supposedly meaningless world, The Uses of the Body explores the lack of desire in a world with endless meaning. Yes, Landau's speakers are still trying to find reasons to stay happy in these poems, but they're also deeply embedded in the physical world. A Parisian summer blooms while marriage, motherhood, pregnancy, birth, and death (so much death) occupy the collection on a subjective basis. As a result, If The Last Usable Hour, Landau's second collection, explores the meaning of desire in a supposedly meaningless world, The Uses of the Body explores the lack of desire in a world with endless meaning. Yes, Landau's speakers are still trying to find reasons to stay happy in these poems, but they're also deeply embedded in the physical world. A Parisian summer blooms while marriage, motherhood, pregnancy, birth, and death (so much death) occupy the collection on a subjective basis. As a result, our speakers are constantly responding to impending happenstance, the happenings themselves, and their glorious aftermaths. The female body is at work here, and so is a complex, fierce mind. Like The Last Usable Hour, lyric sequences are organized in sections primarily dealing with one or more of the aforementioned subjects. The compulsion to read each section as a long poem is more convincing here than in her previous collection since many of the thin, short poems need each other to exist in close proximity. Stylistically, a love child is born: The Uses of the Body features the familiarity and simplicity of Orchidelirium (her first collection) and the lyric architecture of The Last Usable Hour (which I actually prefer). This collection is most effective when its speakers critique the world's demands, the demands of others (particularly the male gaze), and what they demand from themselves. I think the last section, "Late Summer," does this best by demonstrating a kind of wry astonishment and effervescent word play, two qualities I've come to expect from Landau's poetry. However, in an earlier section titled "Mr and Mrs End of Suffering," a speaker lies down for the night with her partner and thinks to herself: I can see where I need to go but never get there. When I lie in bed my limbs go numb. When the sky darkens. The urge is there but also the mandate to tamp it down. Always the urge. Always the mandate. Haven't we all felt this tug toward responsibility? One can't help but ask themselves whose responsibility is tugging at them—and if it isn't their own, why should they care? Our unique, creative "urge" is what makes this life worth living. Landau implores us to be true to ourselves and not to let anyone or anything "tamp it down." Meanwhile, anxiety may rule The Last Usable Hour, but depression (postpartum?) rules The Uses of the Body. For example, we often get lines like, "...and the months go by like a dream not killing us yet." Later, some advice is given: Jen says, Try to see the whole landscape of your life, not just the part that's collapsing. On the next page, a speaker laments time, aging, the inevitability of death: I am twenty. I am thirty. I am forty years old. But then: A friend said, Listen, you have to try to calm down. Here, Landau is also our friend. These moments are healing for both the poems' speakers and their readers, but The Uses of the Body, while a more controlled effort than Orchidelirium, is too matter-of-fact for my personal taste. I find myself missing the participatory value of The Last Usable Hour, the mysterious open-ended cadences that transform my reading experience into something applicable. In short, we're told so much in this collection, but we aren't necessarily invited to conjure our own conclusions about what is said. Even so, I look forward to reading Landau's most recent collection, Soft Targets.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Terresa

    Reading this I feel paranoid and split open, a blister. Desperate, a modern Plath, as in: Have you a taste for a birth, for a bludgeoning? My favorite parts: the last bit of "Minutes, Years" and "I don't have a pill for that." Reading this I feel paranoid and split open, a blister. Desperate, a modern Plath, as in: Have you a taste for a birth, for a bludgeoning? My favorite parts: the last bit of "Minutes, Years" and "I don't have a pill for that."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brian Wasserman

    one of those books, that all i needed was a full minute to decide that it was bad

  25. 5 out of 5

    Monicaaa

    I find Deborah Landau brutally honest and direct. The poems in this flashed images in my head about the life of a woman, my own life, and made me feel things. It felt like a woman telling me parts of her life, but in a controlled way, like she was being honest, but wanted to say more, yet I knew what she meant. She didn't have to tell me details, because I knew what she meant. I can definitely see myself rereading parts of this collection, however it's in between a 4 and 5 star rating for me. Whi I find Deborah Landau brutally honest and direct. The poems in this flashed images in my head about the life of a woman, my own life, and made me feel things. It felt like a woman telling me parts of her life, but in a controlled way, like she was being honest, but wanted to say more, yet I knew what she meant. She didn't have to tell me details, because I knew what she meant. I can definitely see myself rereading parts of this collection, however it's in between a 4 and 5 star rating for me. While it evoked images and feelings in me, it wasn't perfect. Her strongest poems were in the first 3/4s of the collection, but the last part I think is still worth reading.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Milo

    (3.5) "The uses of the body. Rinse, repeat. To make another body. September. Draw the blanket up. Lace your shoes. The major and minor passions. Sunlight. Hair." - from "Mr and Mrs End of Suffering" (3.5) "The uses of the body. Rinse, repeat. To make another body. September. Draw the blanket up. Lace your shoes. The major and minor passions. Sunlight. Hair." - from "Mr and Mrs End of Suffering"

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Lou

    I read this book as part of a reading challenge. I don't feel that I can fairly rate this book of poems since it is not really my main genre of interest. I'm sure they are beautiful and have deep meaning to those who enjoy and appreciate this genre. I read this book as part of a reading challenge. I don't feel that I can fairly rate this book of poems since it is not really my main genre of interest. I'm sure they are beautiful and have deep meaning to those who enjoy and appreciate this genre.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jayant Kashyap

    Landau is magic! Talk about matters un-talked about yet — so subtle and such an explosive.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Emily Wood

    you should definitely read this

  30. 5 out of 5

    Savanny Savath

    Too abstract at times. I couldn't connect with the poems on an emotional level. Not my cup of tea but the strongest section is "Late Summer." Too abstract at times. I couldn't connect with the poems on an emotional level. Not my cup of tea but the strongest section is "Late Summer."

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