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A Kiss in Space
A Kiss in Space



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Mary Jo Salter grew up in Detroit and Baltimore, and was educated at Harvard and at Cambridge University. She is the author of three previous collections of poems, Henry Purcell in Japan (1985), Unfinished Painting (1989, the Lamont Selection for the year's most distinguished second volume of poetry), and Sunday Skaters (1994), as well as a children's book, The Moon Comes Home (1989). She is also an editor of The Norton Anthology of Poetry.

Her many awards include a recent year in France on an Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship. An Emily Dickinson Lecturer in the Humanities at Mount Holyoke College, she lives in South Hadley, Massachusetts, with her husband, the writer Brad Leithauser, and their daughters, Emily and Hilary.

From the first poem, which takes us up in a hot-air balloon over Chartres, to the last, in which a Russian cosmonaut welcomes an American colleague onto the Mir space station, Mary Jo Salter's exhilarating fourth collection draws the reader into the long distances of the imagination and the intimacies of the heart.

Poignant poems about her own past--such as "Libretto," in which a childhood initiation into opera merges with a family drama--are set against historical poems such as "The Seven Weepers," where a nineteenth-century English explorer in Australia comes face-to-face with the Aborigines his own people have doomed to decimation.

The book's centerpiece, "Alternating Currents," juxtaposes real historical figures like Alexander Graham Bell and Helen Keller with their fictional contemporaries Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, as each of them plumbs the mysteries of perception.

Along the way are poems on family life, on films (from home movies to Hollywood romances), on travel in France, and on works of art (from a child's fingerpainted refrigerator magnet to Titian's last painting).

In this splendid and engaging collection, Mary Jo Salter pays homage with wit and compassion to the precious dailiness of life on earth, while gazing tantalizingly beyond its boundaries to view such wondrous events as a kiss in space.

Praise for A KISS IN SPACE

"These are poems of breath-taking elegance: in formal control, in intellectual subtlety, in learning lightly displayed. I salute Mary Jo Salter's accomplishments, and send her, in return, a kiss in space."
--Carolyn Kizer

"Among the many satisfactions offered by Mary Jo Salter's poems are their adroit and exact metrics, their lucid and generous vision, their exhilarating combination of happiness and intelligence, and the sense they convey of the continuities between domestic detail and universal meaning."
--Edward Mendelson

In the Poet's Own Words

It's a little joke on myself, I suppose--given that I usually hate to fly--that the first and last poems of A Kiss in Space take place above the earth. In the first poem, "Fire-Breathing Dragon," a hot-air balloon ride with friends provides a literal high, a euphoric sense (soon dispelled) that I can see not only far into the distance but deep into the past. In the book's final poem, "A Kiss in Space," where an American and a Russian astronaut encounter each other on the Mir space station, I hope to nudge myself and the reader a few inches into the twenty-first century--with a disorientation that is something like doing without gravity.