Josephine Jacobsen Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although most noted for her poetry, Josephine Jacobsen also wrote short stories. Her collections include A Walk with Raschid, and Other Stories (1978), Adios, Mr. Moxley: Thirteen Stories (1986), and On the Island: New and Selected Stories (1989). What Goes Without Saying: Collected Stories of Josephine Jacobsen was published by The Johns Hopkins University in 1996. Jacobsen also produced works of dramatic criticism: The Testament of Samuel Beckett (1964; with William R. Mueller) and Ionesco and Genet: Playwrights of Silence (1968; also with Mueller). Her lecture before the Library of Congress on May 7, 1973, was printed up as The Instant of Knowing. This title later served for a compilation of her prose pieces, The Instant of Knowing: Lectures, Criticism, and Occasional Prose (1997), edited by Elizabeth Spires and published by the University of Michigan Press.

Jacobsen’s poetry has been recorded by the Library of Congress. Her work has also been adapted to music and performed at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Her lecture From Anne to Marianne: Some American Women Poets was published in 1972 with a piece by William Stafford. Interviews with her appeared in periodicals such as Thalia and New Letters, and in the book Our Other Voices: Nine Poets Speaking (1991).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Marilyn Hacker once noted, “The work of Josephine Jacobsen is one of the best kept secrets of contemporary American literature. She is a coeval of Auden and Roethke, Bishop, Miles, and Rukeyser.” Jacobsen received fellowships from Yaddo, the Millay Colony for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, and the Academy of American Poets. She won numerous awards, including an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1982), the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize (1988), the Shelley Memorial Award (1993), the William Carlos Williams Award (1996), the Poets’ Prize (1996), the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America (1997), and numerous O. Henry prizes for her short stories. In the Crevice of Time was a finalist for a National Book Award.

In 1971, Jacobsen was named a consultant in poetry (poet laureate) to the Library of Congress, a position she kept until 1973, when she became an honorary consultant in American letters until 1979. She also served on the literature panel for the National Endowment for the Arts and belonged to such literary organizations as the Poetry Society of America and PEN Club. She served on the poetry committee of the Folger Library in Washington, D.C. In 1994, Jacobsen was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Blabo, Ned. Review of Contents of a Minute. Antioch Review 66, no. 4 (Fall, 2008): 794-796. A favorable review of Jacobsen’s posthumously published work that incorporates some previously unpublished poems. Briefly discusses the poems “Program,” “The Apprentice,” and “Stroke.”

Ivy, Benjamin. “Josephine Jacobsen’s Legacy: The Physical Thrill of Poetry.” The New York Times, July 19, 2003, p. B14. This obituary of Jacobsen recalls her life and works and looks favorably on her writings.

Jacobsen, Josephine. “The Mystery of Faith: An Interview with Josephine Jacobsen.” Interview by Evelyn Prettyman. New Letters 53, no. 4 (Summer, 1987). In this engaging interview, Jacobsen talks about her personal life, her religious faith, and certain themes found within her poems.

Mason, David. Review of In the Crevice of Time. Hudson Review 49, no. 1 (Spring, 1996). This review praises Jacobsen for the high quality of her writing throughout her long career.

Osterhaus, Joe. Review of In the Crevice of Time. Boston Review 20, no. 6 (December/January, 1995). In this favorable review, Osterhaus notes the lack of critical attention given Jacobsen’s work and suggests possible reasons. He argues that her work deserves to be much better known.

Shaw, Robert B. Review of The Sisters. Poetry, no. 1 (April 4, 1988). This short but positive review is by a noted critic of contemporary American poetry.

Spires, Elizabeth. “Joy and Terror: The Poems of Josephine Jacobsen.” New Criterion 14, no. 3 (November, 1995). This article uses In the Crevice of Time to look at Jacobsen’s entire career. Spires argues for, and discusses the meanings of, several of Jacobsen’s major poems.