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The Arc of Love
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An Anthology of Lesbian Love Poems, Edited and with an Introduction by Clare Coss

This predominantly contemporary collection, although beginning and ending with poems by Sappho, includes the work of such expected writers as Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Robin Morgan, Marilyn Hacker, Olga Broumas and Muriel Rukeyser. Less familiar standouts are Margaret Randall, Melanie Hope and Joan Larkin, who recalls her father spanking her as a child: "his hands, his strong/ voice telling me I was loved" ("Beatings"). Less laudable is the editor's contribution. Coss, a psychotherapist, neatly quarters material into sections that follow the letters of the word love (light, order, vexation, and endurance/evolution/ecstasy). Coupled with simplistic introductions to each section, her "arc" resembles a 12-step program in which weaker poems are included because their sentiments fit the pattern. Many of the 87 contributors, however, surpass such utility.