THE CHINESE INSOMNIACS: New Poems by Josephine Jacobsen


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Josephine Jacobsen has built up a body of work with the same careful, steady application that goes into each of her poems. Here, in her fifth collection of poems, she displays her familiar resources of quick perception and skillful craft with the tact and understatement that are the essence of her poetic voice. Her poems are attentive at once to the particulars of the sensible world and the mystery that pervades it: ""When the cat puts its furred illiterate/paw on my page and makes a starfish,/the space between us drains my marrow/like a roof's edge."" In this easy commerce between observation and meditation she a little resembles George Herbert; like him, she delights in the odd coincidences of reflective consciousness and the natural world: ""Space's amazed spider in her cage/ is weightless. Fairly, one might expect her/to sulk in a daze, paw the air in arachnean rage/that good gravity monstrously should reject her."" Occasionally Jacobsen strains after significance, and achieves instead only rhetoric: ""I know who shook marred/ fruit of difficult bough/and from the rank discard/salvaged enough."" But such lapses are rare, and may be easily overlooked for the rich humanity and shaping sense Jacobsen brings to these latest welcome poems.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press