Kara Candito

Taste of Cherry

Bison Books | 2009

Taste of Cherry

Winner of the 2008 Prairie Schooner Book Prize

In Kara Candito’s prize-winning debut collection a “garish/human theatre” comes to life against richly textured geographic and psychic landscapes. These poems are high-speed meditations on a world where Walter Benjamin meets the “glitzy chain-link of Chanel scarves” and Puccini’s Tosca meets the din of the Times Square subway station. Ferociously witty and intensely lyrical, Taste of Cherry speaks to us in a language that is simultaneously private and public, sensual and cerebral.


“These poems are poised and raw, hard-knuckled and siren-sweet. Their many speakers confess openly to a desire to be transformed, even undone, by unmitigated experience. Fearlessly and with clear-eyed candor, Candito sings a whole new set of constellations—made of ‘the body’s light . . . the din of a hundred conversations’—into bright being.”

—Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Life on Mars

“The speaker of these poems wanders again and again ‘where the guidebook says DANGER,’ and even as the poet finds terror and pain in the lavish wreckage of twisted urges, a formal clarity, fueled by a profound hunger for life, keeps asserting itself in Taste of Cherry.”

—Dean Young

“Just as wry, smartly provocative and interestingly disturbing as its title promises. With this book, Candito announces herself as a poetic voice born to our landscape fully formed, with intelligence and style to spare.”

—Erin Belieu, author of Black Box

“In Kara Candito’s remarkable first collection, we feel in the presence of a sure, authoritative voice, an intelligence and sensibility capable of registering the complexities of the sensual life.”

—Stephen Dunn, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Different Hours


from Katie Willingham’s review of Taste of Cherry, for Rain Taxi, Spring 2010

“Taste of Cherry derives its name from the Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami’s film of the same name about a man who considers suicide but decides to live after tasting mulberries. The title invokes something powerfully present in Candito’s poems as glimmers of these pivotal moments of sensation emerge, revealing layers of meaning buried beneath the surface of our daily experience.”

from Randy Marshall’s review of Taste of Cherry, for Blackbird, Vol. 9, No. 1

“Perhaps nowhere is Candito’s obsession with this game of cosmic fill-in-the-blanks more stunningly displayed than in her languorously lined, symphonic “Strange Zippers | A Poem in Which the Heroine __________.” Composed of snippets of Puccini’s Tosca pasted to a scaffolding of philosophical tenets derived from Freemasonry, this poem represents the volume’s thematic crescendo.”

from Shara Lessley’s review of Taste of Cherry, for Gulf Coast, Spring 2010

“Candito reminds her readers that whether physical or emotional, real connection is an art form. Although the collection is at times uneven (what book isn’t?), Taste of Cherry’s strongest poems introduce Candito as something rare: a writer brave enough to confront what’s emotionally terrifying and true. Writing from her gut, Candito strives “in bright, carnal letters” to prove that even in “Last Happiness”—“brief, brutal”—there is a degree of happiness still.”

from Sean Singer’s review of Taste of Cherry, for The Rumpus

Like Jerzy Kosinski’s Steps, these poems blur the lines, like a prism, between sex and gender. They question commonly held assumptions like: “Men can’t cry,” “Women are the victims of patriarchal oppression,” and “Heterosexual intercourse is an expression of men’s power over women.” Since Candito’s language is especially fraught and concerned with overturning such complex situations,Taste of Cherry is frequently electrified with a delicate mix of both clarity and complexity.”

from Roman Gladstone’s review of Taste of Cherry, for The Potomac

“But the way she [Candito] seduces you most essentially is in the overall sense in these poems of an intelligence exploring the border between civilization and chaos.  Indeed, Candito is the flâneuse in the Baudelairean sense of a “stroller of the streets,” who plays a double role in the detached observation of and the active participation in the life of the city.”

from Ron Slate’s review of Taste of Cherry, for On the Seawall

“This is what one hopes to find in a first book – the chance taken to spill beyond itself, the language flung outwards at a deceptive target, the inner conflicts harshly exposed — and resolved not in story but in the form of the poem.”

from Valerie Wetlaufer’s review of Taste of Cherry, for Poets’ Quarterly

“There is something incantatory and polymorphous in this book; we are hypnotized, besotted, and we want to follow along with the speaker, past the end of the poem”

from Sam Williams’ review of Taste of Cherry, for Feminist Review

“Whatever the case may be, the strength of this collection lies in Candito’s willingness to state the ugly truth, and somehow make it sound lyrical without losing meaning. Even more intriguing is her ability to pull such a high level of detail from historical accounts, published writing, and Italian opera, leaving the reader wondering how much of her writing stems from personal experience and how much is imagined.”

from Dominika Wrozynski’s review of Taste of Cherry, for Apalachee Review

“Candito’s canvas in Taste of Cherry is bold, sexy, smart and unapologetic. The quotidian is anything but ordinary–it is a sensual  assault of images that leaves us breathless, heady and drunk on language”

from Stephen Mills’ review of Taste of Cherry

“The last moment I want to showcase is the closing of the poem “The Fitting.” This is an example of how imaginative Candito’s poems are but also how she can take something and make it sound so beautiful even when it might not actually be so beautiful. She writes, “When you’re not sure, remember those strange, // muffled sounds she made during sex, as if the coordinates / for buried treasure were caught / in her throat and she’d rather choke than share the gold.” Wow, is all I can say.”