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Little Fish, Lorrie Goldensohn’s first collection of new poems since The Tether in 1983, consists mainly of elegies, poems of loss and retrieval, many plunging into family history and friendships cultivated over decades in rural Vermont and in cities from Berkely to London.  A number of poems reflect Goldensohn’s training as a literary critic, and her engagement with the power that other art forms possess to shape, enlarge, and give their momentary luminosity to the vanishing fictions of our own lives.  Little Fish concludes with a sequence dedicated to her late husband, the poet Barry Goldensohn. 


Lorrie Goldensohn’s work should long ago have been better known and widely celebrated. Open to every kind of experience, her taste for language “luscious” and “apoplexing,” and yet scouring and declarative. “I have finished knitting a perfectly brilliant sock,” she declares in one poem, as if amused by the very notion of anything—poem or sock or sentiment—“perfectly brilliant” or indisputable.  By the alternation of tenderness and a bristling dissatisfaction with lies or bullshit. Goldensohn moves with a confident embrace of sheer abundant presentness and what she calls “a fear of the death of joy.” The long elegiac sequence on the death of her husband Barry Goldensohn that ends this book comes as a gut punch and a culmination.

—Robert Boyers, editor-in-chief, Salmagundi

What a celebration of the fire and luminescence of words to explore the vastness of love and sorrow!  These exquisitely observed poems illuminate the richness of deeply intertwined humans over many years.  Their capture of both the depth of relatedness and our continued separateness is stunning.  An extraordinary tribute to Goldensohn’s husband, the poet Barry Goldensohn, shines an incandescent light on love, belonging, and the inevitability of death.  Deeply moving.

—Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score.

I read the many and varied poems in the first three sections of Little Fish with repeated shocks of surprise and discovery — these people, these places! —, often clapping my hands inwardly with pleasure.  But the fourth section, “The Swimmer”, has the great power of tragedy experienced:  the dying and death of her husband, the poet Barry Goldensohn.  It is the most precisely wrenching, moving, courageously honest piece of writing I have ever read.  Everyone literate should read it.

 — Raymond Oliver, author of The Mellow World

All of the poems in Little Fish I read as elegies—elegies for particular places and people—and even in “Usufruct,” one of the standout poems of this brilliant collection, to “the blood of so many killed in my name.” All the elegies culminate in “The Swimmer,” the sequence which chronicles Goldensohn’s excruciating vigil over her husband’s final days. I said elegies. In “Lament for the Makaris”, she even mourns the death of those devices formerly used to listen to music, meaning all those systems which flourished and disappeared in the span of her lifetime: victrola, vinyl LPs, audiotapes, cds, earbuds—all “Deaf, dumb, and dead now, the making of that joy.” And yet, Little Fish is anything but depressing. It is a book full of a long and well-lived life, eagerly embracing travel, reading and listening to books, museum-going, knitting, old friends, motherhood, daughterhood, young marriage, enduring marriage and all the pleasures of the body. I keep re-reading Little Fish, so often delighted with its verbal surprises. 

—Jane Shore, author of That Said, winner of The Juniper, The Lamont, and The Poet’s Prize.

About the Author

Lorrie Goldensohn’s work has always split between writing prose and poetry, and writing about reading prose and poetry.  Many articles on fiction writers like Virginia Woolf and Natalia Ginsburg have been published in journals and anthologies, as well as dozens of articles on poetry and war literature.  Her critical studies include Elizabeth Bishop: The Biography of a Poetry (nominated for a Pulitzer Prize), and Dismantling Glory: 20th Century English and American War Poets.  She has taught at Goddard, Hampshire, and Vassar Colleges, and currently divides her time between Manhattan and Cabot, Vermont.