It Must Give Pleasure is both a memoir and a deeply imaginative treatise on poetry, literature, art and life. And since Roberta Bienvenu’s life has been rich in friendship and fortunate in mentors, we also meet men and women whose ideas and art helped define the culture of the last century.
Roberta Bienvenu is a poet, painter, and former teacher. Over the years, she has published poems, essays and reviews in many journals, among them Poetry, Ploughshares, Crazyhorse, Antioch Review, and New England Review. Recently, she was awarded Shenandoah’s Carter Prize for her essay “Bartleby the Scrivener Occupies Wall Street.” She lives in northern Vermont.
At the heart of It Must Give Pleasure is a contemplation of how beauty can be a motivating force in one’s life. Most people spend a lifetime never having considered such ideas, yet Bienvenu articulates them so well that we are constantly moved to investigate our own deepest feelings. Weaving together breath-taking imagery and wonderfully nuanced memories, Roberta Bienvenu has created a unique and stimulating memoir.
—Alan Boye, author of Sustainable Compromises
Roberta Bienvenu’s It Must Give Pleasure is that rare thing, an evocation of a solitary life teeming with companions (poetry, landscape, one mind touching myriad others) that somehow manages to be both memoir and literary musing. The childhood woods, the secrets of parents and grandparents, the young woman finding her way to paintings and poems which the older woman recounts—all are brilliantly caught and examined in ways that waken us to a deeper attention, in which we find, heart-stoppingly, love, “that Icarus emotion,” whose doomed soaring makes us ache, and makes us thankful.
—Lynne McMahon, author of Sentimental Standards.
Page after page, Roberta Bienvenu makes a deeply compelling case for Chekhov’s belief that art exists to prepare the soul for tenderness. And she does that not so much by persuasion as by demonstration, by closing the gap between the idea of beauty and the experience of beauty. Undaunted by the orthodoxies of our skeptical age, she reminds us that the possibilities for delight and wonder are still well within our reach. So profound is her belief in the restorative power of the imagination and the capaciousness of human regard, that a reader can’t help but feel changed, enlarged, enlightened.
—Sherod Santos, author of The Intricated Soul
For those who find pleasure in the arts, especially in poetry and painting, that pleasure will be magnified by Roberta Bienvenu’s brilliantly written memoir. In describing her experience of the natural world, her education, and her growing sense of pleasure and significance from the art she discovers, she shows how these can intensify our own experience and sense of wonder and lead us toward the joy of creating.
—Gladys Swan, author of The Tiger’s Eye: New and Selected Stories.