This is the second collection from a Brooklyn poet whose work many readers will know from the New Yorker. Jessica Greenbaum's narrative poems, in which objects and metaphor share highest honors, attempt revelation through close observation of the everyday. Written in "plain American that cats and dogs can read," as Marianne Moore phrased it, these contemporary lyrics bring forward the challenges of Wisława Szymborska, the reportage of Yehuda Amichai, and the formal forays of Marilyn Hacker. The book asks at heart: how does life present itself to us, and how do we create value from our delights and losses? Riding on Kenneth Koch's instruction to "find one true feeling and hang on," The Two Yvonnes overtakes the present with candor, meditation, and the classic aspiration to shape lyric into a lasting force.
Moving from 1960s Long Island, to 1980s Houston, to today's Brooklyn, the poems range in subject from the pages of the Talmud to a squirrel trapped in a kitchen. One tells the story of young lovers "warmed by the rays / Their pelvic bones sent over the horizon of their belts," while another describes the Bronx Zoo in winter, where the giraffes pad about "like nurses walking quietly / outside a sick room." Another poem defines the speaker via a "packing slip" of her parts--"brown eyes, brown hair, from hirsute tribes in Poland and Russia." The title poem, in which the speaker and friends stumble through a series of flawed memories about each other, unearths the human vulnerabilities that shape so much of the collection. ______
From The Two Yvonnes: WHEN MY DAUGHTER GOT SICK Jessica Greenbaum ?
Her cries impersonated all the world; The fountain's bubbling speech was just a trick But still I turned and looked, as she implored, Or leaned toward muffled noises through the bricks: Just radio, whose waves might be her wav- ering, whose pitch might be her quavering, I turned toward, where, the sirens might be "Save
Me," "Help me," "Mommy, Mommy"--everything She, too, had said, since sloughing off the world. She took to bed, and now her voice stays fused To air like outlines of a bygone girl; The streets, the lake, the room--just places bruised Without her form, the way your sheets still hold Rough echoes of the risen sleeper, cold.
Jessica Greenbaum is the author of the award-winning poetry collection Inventing Difficulty. Her poems and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, the Nation, Poetry, Southwest Review, and elsewhere. She is the poetry editor of upstreet.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments ix Next Door 1 Promised Town 3 House Phone 5 Anthology 7 What We Read Then 9 The First, Youngest Men 11 Seven, Seven, Seventy-Seven 12 The Voice of Peace 14 Houston in the Early Eighties 15 Without Measure 17 Stowaway's Ascent 18 One Key 19 Packing Slip 21 A Line from Jimi Hendrix Comes to Mind 22 Early April 23 "This" and "That" 24 When My Daughter Got Sick 25 Beauty's Rearrangements 26 What For is For 28 Before 29 Cosmic Page 30 A Poem for S. 31 Little White Truck 32 Sonnets for the Autobiographical Urban Dweller 33 Baldo's 34 Perfume's Journey 35 Little "the" Rules the World 37 Gardens, Passover 38 Streaming Nancy 39 The Use of Metaphor 42 God 43 The Gold Standard 44 Marriage Made in Brooklyn 45 Gratitude's Anniversary 47 What to Expect 48 My Hands in Winter 49 Firefly 50 One Block from the Navy Yard 51 The Moment We Can't Stay 52 For You Today 53 No Ideas but in Things 54 The Two Yvonnes 56 Dedications 58
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