Jacobsen, Josephine (Poetry Criticism)
Josephine Jacobsen 1908-2003
(Born Josephine Winder Boylan) Canadian-born American poet, short story writer, lecturer, and critic.
Jacobsen did not publish her first volume of poetry, Let Each Man Remember (1940), until age thirty-two, and her work was not recognized until she was appointed, at age sixty-three, to two consecutive terms as the Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress (now Poet Laureate) in 1971 and 1972. Jacobsen is known for her spare, elegant verse which centers on the relationship between the physical and the spiritual and the mysteries of being human. Her consistent and empathetic style and her exploration of such themes as pain, identity, faith, isolation, and the nature of time and loss continues to earn her admiration from critics and readers alike.
Jacobsen was born in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada. Following the death of her father when she was five years old, Jacobsen lived with her emotionally unstable mother and brother. Jacobsen's brother, a talented writer and artist, suffered a nervous breakdown and her mother was prone to states of manic depression. Jacobsen found solace in the poetry of Robert Service and Rudyard Kipling, writers she continually cited as inspiration for her first attempts at crafting verse. Jacobsen was educated by private tutors at home before attending the Roland Park Country School. She graduated from high school in 1926, but did not attend college. This limitation on her education was a source of deep regret for the poet. Jacobsen married Eric Jacobsen in 1932 and had one son. She published her first poetry collection, Let Each Man Remember, in 1940. While continuing to produce poetry, Jacobsen collaborated with Dr. William R. Mueller on two critical studies, The Testament of Samuel Beckett (1964) and Ionesco and Genet (1968). Official recognition by the literary world did not occur until 1971, when Jacobsen was named the Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress, a position she held until 1973. She subsequently became honorary consultant in American letters from 1973 to 1979. During this time, Jacobsen published her first collection of short stories, A Walk with Raschid and Other Stories (1978), which was selected as one of the Fifty Distinguished Books of the Year by Library Journal. In 1974, she received the Prairie Schooner award for fiction, and published her fifth volume of poetry, The Shade-Seller, which was nominated for a National Book Award. Jacobsen served as a member of the literature panel for the National Endowment of the Arts from 1970 to 1983. The publication of her lectures titled The Instant of Knowing (1974) and One Poet's Poetry (1975) led to her appointment as the lecturer for the American Writers Program annual meeting in 1984. Jacobsen received many awards, including the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters for Service to Literature in 1982 and 1984. She also received the Shelley Memorial Award for lifetime service to literature and the Lenore Marshall Poetry prize. Jacobsen was nominated for the PEN-Faulkner Fiction award, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1994. One of her highest accolades came in 1997, in which she received the Poetry Society of America's Robert Frost Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry. In 2003, Jacobsen died of kidney failure in Cockeysville, Maryland.
Major Poetic Works
Jacobsen's first collection of poems, Let Each Man Remember, contains a section of traditional love sonnets entitled “Winter Castle.” These sonnets highlight Jacobsen's penchant for formalism, which is evident throughout her oeuvre. This collection also features a section of metaphysical poems, which is equally representative of Jacobsen's body of work in its contemplation of transcendental themes of faith. Her next volume of poetry, The Human Climate (1953), is more personal in language and tone, addressing subjects of hypocrisy and injustice in the world at large. Although The Animal Inside was published in 1966, some of the seventy poems collected in the volume date back to 1953. As indicated by the title, many of these poems center on animals, yet range in form and subject matter from a sestina on hummingbirds to meditations on love and death. The Shade-Seller, a collection made up of poems from four previous volumes as well as new work, continues to probe Jacobsen's interest in the primitive forces of the natural world while also incorporating recurring themes of travel, history, and religion. Jacobsen employed a detached tone and minimalist structure in The Chinese Insomniacs (1981), in which she examines the role of language in building and maintaining human relationships and community. The Sisters (1987) contains poems of the natural world which explore the mysteries of the human condition. Jacobsen's ninth and final collection of poetry, In the Crevice of Time (1995), assembles sixty years of literary output. Critics consider the poems in this volume to be characteristic of Jacobsen's best work, highlighting the humanity and precision with which she crafted her verse. Among the most highly regarded is “Instances of Communication,” a poem that contemplates Jacobsen's primary themes of communication and faith. The first three stanzas are made up of specific scenarios in which the narrator/poet finds herself surrounded by disturbing scenes of failed human communication, while the last two stanzas shift to the mystical language of divine communion. Critic Elizabeth Spires notes that in this poem “the world of imaginative experience and the world of religious experience brilliantly intersect and momentarily become one.”
Jacobsen's work is well known to her peers, but has not been widely read or anthologized. Despite this, critical reaction to Jacobsen's poetry has been positive and enthusiastic. Reviewers often cite the disciplined and unpretentious nature of her poetry, whether in its earlier, more formal stages, or her later and more personal verse. Though she has been compared to other female poets including Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop, and Marianne Moore, as well as contemporaries such as Theodore Roethke, Archie Ammons, and W. H. Auden, Jacobsen is credited with creating her own, independent sensibility outside of academia. In fact, critics often point to Jacobsen's idiosyncratic and individualistic approach to writing as an underlying reason for her relative obscurity. Jacobsen's critical reputation grew in her later years, and continues to do so. As stated by critic Robert Shaw, Jacobsen's body of work “will continue to be taken from the shelves to be read when many another weightier one is taken down only to be dusted.”
Let Each Man Remember 1940
For the Unlost 1946
The Human Climate: New Poems 1953
The Animal Inside 1966
The Shade-Seller: New and Selected Poems 1974
The Chinese Insomniacs: New Poems 1981
The Sisters: New and Selected Poems 1987
In the Crevice of Time: New and Collected Poems 1995
The Testament of Samuel Beckett [with William R. Mueller] (criticism) 1964
Ionesco and Genet: Playwrights of Silence [with William R. Mueller] (criticism) 1968
From Anne to Marianne: Some Women in American Poetry (lecture) 1972; published as Two Lectures: Leftovers: A Care Package by William Stafford. From Anne to Marianne: Some Women in American Poetry by Josephine Jacobsen (lecture) 1973
The Instant of Knowing (lecture) 1974; published as The Instant of Knowing: Lectures, Criticism, and Occasional Prose (prose) 1997
One Poet's Poetry (lecture) 1975
A Walk with Raschid and Other Stories (short stories) 1978
Adios, Mr. Moxley: Thirteen Stories (short stories) 1986
On the Island: New and Selected Stories (short stories) 1989
(The entire section is 154 words.)
SOURCE: Martin, James. “Questions of Style.” Poetry 126, no. 2 (May 1975): 103-15.
[In the following excerpt, Martin provides a favorable evaluation of The Shade-Seller, praising Jacobsen's natural and affirmative style.]
In any century or era, there are ideas and images which become temporarily conventional, but beyond these, or possibly within them, there are more basic ideas, bound by neither time nor nationality, which should be written about. These basic ideas constitute our myths, our shared experience, and will always pre-occupy the human mind, without the popularity of fad and fashion. Through time, they have proved either too strange or too familiar for final conclusions. The Shade-Seller, by Josephine Jacobsen, and Collected Poems: 1930-1973, by May Sarton, explore and defend these pre-occupations.
The Shade-Seller is not only pleasurable to the ear, but almost tense with demands that the reader comprehend, relate. The poems have the inevitability of natural events like the migration of birds or the approach of rain. Carefully made, they seem to break down the world and digest the meanings that are inescapable. Josephine Jacobsen has sifted thoughts cautiously, put down words gently, desiring, above all, to speak sincerely. Here is a short piece entitled, “Gentle Reader”:
Late in the night when I should be asleep under...
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SOURCE: Jacobsen, Josephine. “Three Poems of Salvation.” Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress 32, no. 4 (October 1975): 284-87.
[In the following excerpt, Jacobsen examines her poems “The Shade-Seller,” “The Lovers,” and “In the Crevice of Time.”]
Talking about one of my poems makes me healthily nervous—it is such dangerous work. Dangerous to the poem, which may be destroyed by imputing to it more than it can justify, or by denigrating its irreducible core of mystery; dangerous to the poet, who can become pontifical in retrospect where she was honest in practice. Brevity can do much to curtail both dangers.
I chose these three poems not only because I care, particularly, for the poems themselves, but also because, taken together, they seem to me to represent a sort of widening circle with ripples spreading out from the initial impact to larger areas, yet still part of one initial impulse.
All three are poems of salvation.
“The Shade-Seller” is a dream-poem, a poem of one person's sense of need for the salvation of relief; “The Lovers” is a poem about the salvation, through each other, of two people, lovers. “In the Crevice of Time” is a poem about the salvation of the human identity through community.
“The Shade-Seller” is both a dream-poem and a story-poem. The skeletal story is exact: the...
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SOURCE: Jacobsen, Josephine, Jacqueline Tavernier-Courbin, and R. G. Collins. “Interview with Josephine Jacobsen.” THALIA: Studies in Literary Humor 2, nos. 1 & 2 (spring/fall 1979): 5-15.
[In the following interview, originally conducted on October 12, 1979, Jacobsen and Tavernier-Courbin, with the assistance of R. G. Collins, discuss literary influences and tastes, differences and similarities of verse and prose, and the role of humor in poetry.]
[Tavernier-Courbin]: You have, over a period of time, produced several volumes of poetry, a couple of books on modern French dramatists, and your latest book is, I believe, the collection of short stories, A Walk With Raschid. Does this represent a generally widespread interest or a pattern of change or development?
[Jacobsen]: I don't think it really represents as much a pattern of development as things in which I've always been interested. Years ago I started trying to write some short stories and they were very unsatisfactory. Even I knew that. And I did abandon it at that point, but it was not because I lost interest in writing stories, it was just that I realized I wasn't really doing what I wanted to. The theatre is something in which I've always been extremely interested, but poetry has been and is my main concern. I think of myself as a poet even if I write criticism, even if I write short stories; stories...
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SOURCE: Hudzik, Robert. Review of The Chinese Insomniacs, by Josephine Jacobsen. Library Journal 106, no. 17 (1 October 1981): 1930.
[In the following review, Hudzik lauds Jacobsen's The Chinese Insomniacs, deeming the volume “richly musical.”]
Jacobsen's first collection since The Shade-Seller (LJ [Library Journal] 4/15/74), a National Book Award nominee [The Chinese Insomniacs], is a richly musical volume composed of both rhymed and free verse. The quiet tone at the center of these poems derives from a spare, meditative style. In the title poem, a private “sorrow, or not” distracts two Chinese poets, living 900 years apart, from sleep; a “companionable” unrest reaches across the centuries to haunt Jacobsen, and render time meaningless. Gestures, dreams, tears, flowers, spiders are the silent objects of Jacobsen's art. Like the child's game “Simon Says,” her art, by necessity, attempts to “distinguish” between the authentic and the merely imitative.
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SOURCE: Jacobsen, Josephine. “Poetry's Slant Vision.” Writer 95, no. 10 (October 1982): 12-15.
[In the following essay, Jacobsen outlines her personal views on the art of writing poetry and delineates the challenges and rewards of well-crafted verse.]
Poetry is the most honored and least read form of literature. Many intelligent and highly literate readers haven't read a poem since leaving college. The most common complaint is, “I'm just not up to poetry. I honestly don't feel that I understand it.” Usually added: “I wish I did.”
The same person will attribute this impenetrability to the difficulties of modern poetry, saying or implying that if only poets wrote like Tennyson or Wordsworth, the complainer would be an avid reader. But both the speaker and the spoken-to know that this is doubtful, to put it kindly.
Why then does poetry hold, as it does, a place of such respect in the minds of its non-readers? I think it is because there is a deep feeling, conscious or not, that if it can be reached, there is in poetry some sort of truth, of illumination, of pleasure, some quintessentially different quality that exists nowhere else. And those who know poetry, as readers or as writers, know, too, that this is nothing less than the truth. William Carlos Williams said it once and for all, bluntly: “You have no other language for it than the poem.”...
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SOURCE: Jacobsen, Josephine, and Nancy Sullivan. “Two Interviews with Josephine Jacobsen.” 13th Moon 10, nos. 1-2 (1992): 158-78.
[In the following interview, the first part conducted in 1984 and the second in 1991, Jacobsen and Sullivan address the author's position as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress, her techniques for writing poetry, and the increased productivity of her later years.]
I first met Josephine Jacobsen at the MacDowell Colony. Her energy, her devotion to important literary causes, her productivity, and the impeccable quality of her poetry and fiction are remarkable. She is a generous, complicated and vital woman: a rare personality for any age, and a delight to interview.
In both her prose and poetry, Josephine Jacobsen is a centralist in themes, settings, language and style. The discoveries in her stories often relate to misuses of power and to the mistaken original assumptions of citizens and tourists in exotic locales—Morocco and tropical islands, for instance. But she is as comfortable with suburban American settings. Through her long career as a poet she has dealt with the major themes: courage, love, faith, loss, change. And among these subjects, none has been more persistent and striking than her attempt to distinguish and to illuminate the source of power in poetry. She investigates the essence of the genre in “The poem itself.” What is...
(The entire section is 10089 words.)
SOURCE: Sullivan, Nancy. “Power as Virtue: The Achievement of Josephine Jacobsen.” Hollins Critic 22, no. 2 (April 1985): 1-10.
[In the following excerpt, Sullivan evaluates the technique, themes, and vision of Jacobsen's poetry, citing her work as demonstrating a “persistent and humane power.”]
The energy and quality of Josephine Jacobsen's work in poetry, fiction, and criticism, as well as her public service on behalf of poetry, are remarkable. She has dedicated years of her long life and enduring talent both to her own writing and to the cause of literature. Josephine Jacobsen has always demanded a high standard of excellence of herself and has rejoiced in discovering the skill and insights of other writers. She is a “woman of letters” in the purest and best sense; and the range of her work, particularly in poetry, is singular and wonderful. I trust that my discussion of a few representative works will suggest the scope and radiance of Josephine Jacobsen's achievement as well as its power.
To speak of power in connection with poetry is to conjure up images of the poetry Mafia, cultural politics, and various other questionable arenas which by definition seem antithetical to the genre. Josephine Jacobsen's concerns are certainly not with poetry hustling; they are with the intrinsic nature of the poem itself. In a poem called “The Poem Itself”1 she clarifies...
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SOURCE: Jacobsen, Josephine, and Betty Parry. “Josephine Jacobsen.” Plum Review 9 (May 1995): 59-72.
[In the following interview, originally conducted in 1986 and published in Belles Lettres, Parry inquires about Jacobsen's literary influences, beginnings as an author, and methods of writing.]
[Parry]: You once told a fascinating story about Japanese artists who, after they became famous, changed their names and started fresh. Where is this from?
[Jacobsen]: A book by Matisse called Jazz. He writes that an artist should never be a prisoner of style, of reputation, or of success. He describes Japanese artists who, in an earlier age, had become oppressed by the accumulation of responsibility, the fear of self-repetition, the terrible weight of expectancy. They wanted, like snakes, to shed their skins and start fresh. So they moved to a new identity, stripped of everything except a paintbrush in order to protect their freedom. J'aime ça, because I came to this profession so late and in such a curious way, and as it closes in around me, I feel its tremendous weight. I get an enormous amount of requests for jacket comments, for recommendations—all the peripheral part that is so important. When young poets are starting, they desperately need this kind of help. I have never been able to withhold it, and it doesn't seem proper...
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SOURCE: Deen, Rosemary. “Eyes That Do Not Sleep at Dawn.” Commonweal 114, no. 10 (22 May 1987): 322-23.
[In the following essay, Deen presents Jacobsen's poetic themes and images through an analysis of ten representative poems.]
Any moment now Josephine Jacobsen's seventh volume of poems will be out: The Sisters: New and Selected Poems, (South Carolina: The Bench Press, 1987). Her first book, Let Each Man Remember, appeared in 1940, so this makes her forty-seventh year as a public poet. She has just returned from a gathering of the Poetry Consultants to the Library of Congress, a position she held from 1971 to 1973. She has done her stint of work for the Literature Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts, and co-authored two volumes of criticism. She is a distinguished reviewer of poetry, identifying the ways of the poet with an intelligent and savory discrimination. She has been in an old-fashioned sense, a woman of letters, a friend, colleague, and encourager of poets.
She has had a long association with Commonweal, sending us poems, reviews, and an occasional article. Her first poem for us was published in 1958 and for it she received ＄7.50; her most recent poem for us earned ＄10. If you have stock in poetry, it's good to know that the price of poems remains steady. My rough addition of the checks sent to her noted in our quaint files says we have...
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SOURCE: Rungren, Lawrence. Review of The Sisters, by Josephine Jacobsen. Library Journal 112, no. 10 (1 June 1987): 116.
[In the following review, Rungren declares Jacobsen's The Sisters to be a work of “careful craft.”]
Jacobsen's strengths have remained constant through 40 years of work in a variety of forms. Hers is a poetry of careful craft, of a quiet delight in the natural world and a painterly appreciation of light and color. She often employs relationships of distance and circumstance to probe the mystery at the heart of the human condition, whether it be in the finely calibrated closeness of the sisters of the title poem or in the greater division in “The Presences”: “Creatures,” “Clouds,” “Now.” Contrasting circumstances also figure in “April Asylum,” which explores the disjunction between innocence and the horrors of a mental hospital. Including some fine new poems as well as selections from five previous books, this [The Sisters] is the work of a writer who deserves to be better known.
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SOURCE: Jacobsen, Josephine, and Evelyn Prettyman. “The Mystery of Faith: An Interview with Josephine Jacobsen.” New Letters 53, no. 4 (summer 1987): 41-56.
[In the following interview, Prettyman discusses specific motifs in Jacobsen's poetry, as well as the author's early career and childhood.]
Josephine Jacobsen's work has for the past 40 years been among the most distinguished published in America. She's the author of seven books of poetry, two critical studies and two collections of short fiction. Her stories, exemplified by “Mr. Meadows' Cup,” have been included in Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Prize Stories, Fifty Years of the American Short Story and many other publications. Her gifts as a poet are testified to by the fact that she has served as a poetry consultant for the Library of Congress. Born in Canada in 1908, Josephine Jacobsen has, with her husband, made the city of Baltimore her home for many years. She is a devout Roman Catholic, although her religious beliefs appear only as a presence in her work. She is also a devotee of the theater and of travel, but mostly of fine writing as this interview, conducted recently, amply shows.
[Prettyman]: In your writing, your world is a world of pain, usually because someone else is hurt. How early did that awareness begin?
[Jacobsen]: That touches on very tender...
(The entire section is 5149 words.)
SOURCE: Shaw, Robert B. Review of The Sisters, by Josephine Jacobsen. Poetry 152, no. 1 (April 1988): 40-1.
[In the following review, Shaw commends Jacobsen's poetry for “the consistency with which she unites firmness of technique with intelligence and feeling.”]
How many poets do we have who can make a moral point without pomposity? The answer is: Not many. Josephine Jacobsen [in The Sisters] is one of the few. An especially fine instance of this ability of hers comes in “An Absence of Slaves,” when she describes her Greek tour guide boasting that the Parthenon was built with free labor. The poem ends:
… she said: “The city sent a slave to each man's yoke, oil press and furrow, to free for toil the free Greek:
the free raised these!” she cried to the blue sky and honey- veined columns. “This is no pyramid.” And I saw the loins and wrists and bones and tendons of those disprized who in absence reared the great frieze.
Together with the ethical clarity of this, the beauty of description and the precision of diction are also typical of this poet. (How perfect the word “disprized” is here.) What is striking and admirable in Jacobsen's work is the consistency with which she unites firmness of technique with intelligence and feeling. There is an attractive lack of egotism in her writing; it is distinguished instead for its...
(The entire section is 579 words.)
SOURCE: Deen, Rosemary. “Josephine Jacobsen, Archeologist of Metaphor.” 13th Moon 10, nos. 1-2 (1992): 151-57.
[In the following essay, Deen highlights Jacobsen's use of insomnia as a metaphor for consciousness, death, and darkness.]
Josephine Jacobsen is a serious, witty poet in a classic/contemporary line of lyric truth. Born a year after Auden, her first collection of poems came out in 1940. In 1987, marking her 47th year as a public poet, she brought out her seventh book of poems, The Sisters. She has two collections of short stories and two volumes of drama study. She's been vice-president of the Poetry Society of America, Library of Congress Poetry Consultant, reader for NEH [National Endowment for the Humanities], honored by arts and letters institutes. Under the usual fate of poets, only her last two books of poems (The Chinese Insomniacs and The Sisters) are in print. She is well known to the American community of poets, but still hard to find in anthologies. There is of course a canon already in possession of those pages, and we know that secular canons, partaking of the sacred, are unwilling to let anything in or anything out. So in the interest of inviting lovers outside the circle of professional poets, we keep writing about the beautiful bodies of unread poems the women of our time have engendered.
I believe the classic work of lyric is to tell...
(The entire section is 3034 words.)
SOURCE: Spires, Elizabeth. “Joy & Terror: The Poems of Josephine Jacobsen.” New Criterion 14, no. 3 (November 1995): 28-33.
[In the following essay, Spires summarizes Jacobsen's poetic career, characterizing In the Crevice of Time as honest and direct.]
Art is long and life is short. Or is it the other way around? On the evidence of In the Crevice of Time: New and Collected Poems, a 258-page volume that spans sixty years of poetic productivity, both art and life have been long and rewarding for Josephine Jacobsen.
The collected poems of a greatly gifted poet may not offer the suspense of a well-plotted novel, but there is still a certain drama in seeing the arc of a life's work fitted between the covers of one book. To read In the Crevice of Time is akin to watching some frightening or wondrous natural process, say a tree or flower blooming, captured in time-lapse photography—from the first stirrings of a germinal impulse to the rapid movement into individuality, maturity, and inevitable denouement. It's a disturbingly compressed tale of birth, change, growth, and oblivion. So it is with Josephine Jacobsen, who, at eighty-seven, has probably been writing longer than any other American poet living today, and who continues to write poems of extraordinary force and passion. Like the aging, prescient figure in “Hourglass,” a recent poem, “She perfectly...
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SOURCE: Mason, David. “Poetry Chronicle.” The Hudson Review 49, no. 1 (spring 1996): 166-75.
[In the following excerpt, Mason admires the “precision” and “formal affirmations” of Jacobsen's poetry, but criticizes its sometimes awkward and opaque language.]
Josephine Jacobsen, on the other hand, has been trying hard all her long life; her new collection [In the Crevice of Time] charts both her restlessness and her achievement. While Charles Wright's work takes on a formal and intellectual uniformity that becomes fruitlessly repetitive, Ms. Jacobsen has never fallen into such a rut. Born in Canada in 1908, but long a citizen of this country, she has flirted with several modern literary trends—including surrealism and the sort of linguistic diffidence we see in Wright—without ever losing her head to them. By remaining a maker, she rescues her poems from self-parody; she understands the material value of verse, free or measured. Frequently compared to Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, she shares their reticence and fascination with detail. She especially resembles Bishop in her love of travel; the peripatetic muse has inspired many of her best poems. But her poems would not be so charming if Ms. Jacobsen did not first learn how to make charm happen, as she does in this early poem, “Spring, Says the Child”:
There are words too ancient to be said by the lips of a...
(The entire section is 669 words.)
SOURCE: Reeve, F. D. “Of Shoemakers and Snails.” Poetry 170, no. 1 (April 1997): 37-51.
[In the following excerpt, Reeve illustrates the ways in which Jacobsen's poetry has adapted to different social climates throughout her career.]
Sixty years is a long life in poetry. Not many manage thirty—Berryman, Jarrell. Others, no matter how long they're on earth, have even fewer—Thomas, Blackmur, Dugan. Josephine Jacobsen's [In the Crevice of Time: New and Collected Poems] gathers her work into more than 250 pages in five sheaves of 15, 15, 5, 5, and 20 years from the mid-Thirties to the mid-Nineties. In those first, desperate years,
If you speak You cannot be delicate or sad or clever. Some other hour, in a moist April, We will consider similes for the budding larches.
Forty years later, in a changed political climate, once-urgent poetry become superfluous, the socially engaged poet who imagined broad solidarity and economic betterment, is merely a guest in a writers' colony:
Dead poets stalk the air, stride through tall rain and peer through wet panes where we sleep, or do not, here.
I know the names of some and can say what they said. What do we say worth the while of the ears of the dead? …
Naked under their eye, we—honest, grave, greedy, pedant, fool—lie with what we make of need.
(The entire section is 1005 words.)
SOURCE: Jacobsen, Josephine, and A. V. Christie. “A Conversation with Josephine Jacobsen.” Image 23 (summer 1999): 45-61.
[In the following interview, Christie appraises Jacobsen's stance on the craft of poetry, her public recognition, and literary accolades.]
Josephine Jacobsen's books include nine volumes of poetry, two of criticism, and four collections of short stories. Her honors include the Lenore Marshall Award, a Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, and the Robert Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America. On the Island: Short Stories was nominated for the PEN-Faulkner award; others of her stories have been included eight times in the O. Henry Prize anthologies. From 1971-1973 she served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a position recently renamed Poet Laureate. Her collected poems In the Crevice of Time was a National Book Award finalist and winner of the William Carlos Williams Award in 1995. This conversation between Ms. Jacobsen and A. V. Christie took place in Ms. Jacobsen's room on the outskirts of Baltimore at the end of January 1999. On the walls of that room are a reproduction of a self-portrait of Flannery O'Connor, a brilliantly colored Mexican oval mirror, a sketch of her son Erlend in watercolor above a watercolor of her husband Eric, two reproductions of van Gogh painted by her husband, and some delicate spider mums in a...
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Brainard, Dulcy. Review of In the Crevice of Time, by Josephine Jacobsen. Publishers Weekly 242, no. 17 (24 April 1995): 66.
Laudatory review of In the Crevice of Time.
“Josephine Jacobsen.” Glasgow Herald (12 July 2003): 14.
Comments on the career and death of Jacobsen.
Hacker, Marilyn. Review of The Sisters, by Josephine Jacobsen. Nation 245, no. 18 (28 November 1987): 644.
Praises The Sisters and the short story collection Adios, Mr. Moxley.
Heller, Michael. “Owls, Monkeys and Spiders in Space.” New York Times Book Review 93 (12 June 1988): 15.
Positive assessment of The Sisters.
Ivry, Benjamin. “An Appreciation; Josephine Jacobsen's Legacy: The Physical Thrill of Poetry.” New York Times (19 July 2003): B14.
Examines the physical nature of Jacobsen's verse.
Jacobsen, Josephine, and Janet Palmer Mullaney. “Josephine Jacobsen.” In Truthtellers of the Times: Interviews with Contemporary Women Poets, edited by Janet Palmer Mullaney, pp. 47-55. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998.
Discusses the “essence of poetry” and the role of the poet in society.
Review of The Chinese...
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