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DIASPORADIC by Patty Seyburn

DIASPORADIC

By Patty Seyburn

Pub Date: Dec. 31st, 1998
ISBN: 1-884235-26-3

Selected by Molly Peacock for the 1997 Marianne Moore Prize, this impressive debut volume introduces a poet of remarkable versatility and intelligence: Seyburn’s gentle wit and winning persona find inspiration in family history; her narratives and lyrics, with their varying lines, draw on her sense of Jewish identity and difference, whether as an assimilated midwestern girl, or in the voices of some lost women from the Bible. Many poems in this ample collection focus on her father: in —The Follow,— she imagines him trying to dance after his legs were amputated; in —Any Day Now,— she elegizes him after suffering still more before death; and in the brilliant four-poem sequence, —Vox Humana,— she records the sounds of his funeral, her own discomfort at his sewn-shut mouth, and the post-burial noises, which include no heavenly choir. —Mourning,— in a perfect sonnet, beautifully summarizes her grief, and another three-sonnet sequence celebrates 17th-century women who spread the word, whether as Christian missionary to Canadian Indians, well-traveled entomologist, or the widowed Jewish writer, Glikl bas Judas Leib. The title poem captures the flow of Jewish history in the scene of a flooded cemetery, the floating caskets a perfect metaphor for the diaspora. Lighter verses, with suitable forms, praise the sublimity of New York City water or begrudge a friend her superior voice, but most of these resonant poems are God-centered, clear, and profound.