Eye-opening poems full of guts and gusto.
Author of the New York Times Notable Book of the Year, We’ll Call You If We Need You: Experiences of Women Working Construction (1998), this master electrician and instructor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, excels at capturing the import of people’s lives in poems that are at once provocative, direct and timely. The first section focuses on the speaker’s grandmother, a complex and critical figure who attempts to deny her Jewish heritage–â€œShe unstitched all remnants / of the girl from the shtetl”–in a language peppered with Yiddish idioms. The paradox suggested by such behavior reappears in the wonderfully sarcastic â€œMoses,” where the role of the great deliverer, here dubbed â€œGod’s Pet” and â€œBasket Baby,” is turned inside out: â€œOh, every group has a Big Parader / who wants to lead, even though / wandering the desert 40 years / is his best plan...40 serious years. After that / any spot any land without Moses / would seem like holy ground.” With their attention to unseemly 20th-century events, Eisenberg’s staunchly political poems challenge patriarchal values, but her refined poet’s ear remains attuned to language’s significant role in promoting those aims. â€œAWE,” one of the collection’s finest poems, cleverly encapsulates the Bush administration’s co-opting of one of the English language’s most reverent expressions of wonder. â€œNow,” the short piece concludes, â€œhow shall we witness a redwood, / first snow, / or the crown of a newborn’s head / reaching light?” In case readers miss the allusion to â€œshock and awe,” a note at the end of the book explains that the phrase derives from â€œRapid Dominance,” a military tactic developed at the National Defense University of the United States.
Engaging works that entertain as they enlighten.