THE SHADESELLER by Josephine Jacobsen


Email this review


A level, wistful and very attractive group of new poems with selections from Jacobsen's four earlier books. Between a betrayed and wolfish darkness that is as immediate as it is old, and the primal paradise of little mammals and wild birds, she centers a careful balance and gathers her redeemers -- a dishwasher is one, a typically common but characteristically pure-hearted choice -- and seeks out the inheritors of the gods: sparrows in the Athenian treasury; parrots swooping down in implied mimicry of divine visitation (""Chinese lanterns,"" she calls them, but the poem's stronger undertows insist on a deeper identification). The poise (often the form) is mildly academic, equilibrated with careful ironies and qualifications; the locales are exotic; and her idealism becomes crisply judgmental in specific personal cases, though the references are kept correctly oblique -- all of which would ordinarily spell the worst kind of women's poetry. But these are mature poems that call for more than one reading. On a first, what impresses are the delicate textures and the atmospheres she can communicate in a word or two. On a second it's the complexity of tone and the subtlety -- not mere understatement -- of her understanding of her favored themes. They are hard to paraphrase, but have to do with history in its broadest sweep and barest traces.

Pub Date: March 22nd, 1974
Publisher: Doubleday