Friday, March 24, 2006

News and Reviews

At some point, a few years ago--around the time I went on my official ages 35-40 hiatus, to spend time with my wife and kids--I dropped my print subscription to The Forward. I figured I'd read it on-line, like everything else.

Knowing how curds lead on to whey, whatever the hell that means, I should have stuck with print. I don't keep up on line, and have missed a lot of very good poetry and poetry reviewing as a result. Up early this morning, I searched the word "poet" in their archives, and came up with some good stuff.

First, this review of Harvey Shapiro's The Sights Along the Harbor: New and Collected Poems, by David Curzon. Shapiro has become one of my favorite poets, not least thanks to the excellent material on him in Norman's Not One Of Them In Place: Modern Poetry and Jewish American Identity, a book that just keeps getting better the more I reread it. When my copy of this arrives, I'll post more on it--my sense is that it will be an essential book, and Shapiro an increasingly important poet to me, as I grow into him.

David Kaufman got the chance to review the new Collected Reznikoff: a book that will, I hope, put this poet onto more maps and syllabi and bookshelves in the next few years. (Rez seems to show up in more and more new anthologies of Modern American Poetry, too, a development driven no doubt by the desire to be more ethnically diverse in earlier periods--but hey, if it's good for the Jews, who am I to object?)

Jay Michaelson, the editor of Zeek: a Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, recently reviewed a collection by Ilya Kaminsky, Dancing in Odessa. Evidently it won a number of prizes; somehow I missed it, but this Russian-born American poet--he came here in his teens--sounds like he has a lovely international reach in his work, from Mandelstam to Montale, and clearly I need to hunt the book up and give it a look.

A lucky fellow by the name of Isaac Meyers gets to review some new books by new poets who write about religion and newly-Orthodox (and post-Orthodox) life, Yermiyahu Ahron Taub (The Insatiable Psalm) and Eve Grubin (Morning Prayer). Meyers frames the review in terms of biographies: Taub grew up Orthodox, then left that world, coming out as gay; Grubin is a baalat teshuvah, an identity that Meyers links quite convincingly to the linguistic texture of her poems: "Orthodoxy is not just a faith but also a social sphere with its own language. All baalei teshuvah, therefore, are as unsettled linguistically as they are spiritually. We can hear and feel the poet searching urgently for a language that better fits her changing life..." I'm going to get a copy of this one, too--and keep an eye out for other pieces by Meyers, who seems to take an interest in poetry and the Orthodox world, as in this piece from a few months ago.

So, how do I get some of these review copies coming my way, eh? Don't tell me I have to get my Jewish poetry retail!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Eric and readers,

It was nice to see my book The Insatiable Psalm mentioned in your recent posting. The publisher Wind River Press will provide reviewers with a review copy. Contact Please mention the publication with which you are affiliated. Readers can purchase copies of the book directly from the publisher or from

Just a few words about my book itself. Perhaps because of the the intimacy of the subject matter, some readers have mistakenly assumed that the narrative first person voice is an essentially autobiographical, confessional one. However, as the poet’s note at the book’s beginning explains, The Insatiable Psalm is primarily a work of the imagination. In creating a character-driven work, I never wanted to be constrained by the boundaries of non-fiction.

Drawing upon motifs in Jewish history and tradition, the book focuses on the love between an ultra-Orthodox mother and her increasingly less observant son who is beginning to imagine a gay life of his own. I say “beginning” because the book is not about the formation of a clearly delineated “post-Orthodox” identity, which is not an identity that I embrace, and which, in any case, is a topic beyond the scope of this book. Rather, the book remains singularly focused on the central mother-son encounter. The son’s early explorations of his queerness outside the parameters of the Orthodox world are centrally important insofar as they illuminate aspects of the dyad. As such, there is quite purposely no attempt to outline the formation of the son’s post-Orthodox identity.

Similarly, this book is not a “coming out” story. Nor is it about being “closeted.” In fact, the son’s homosexuality exists as an unspoken presence throughout the book. Both protagonists are aware of it, but it remains unarticulated. It is simply one theme among many with which the book is concerned.

I enjoy your blog and appreciate the forum for Jewish poetry. Thanks!

Best wishes,
Yermiyahu Ahron Taub