Page 33 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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ADLER/JEWISH POETRY’S QUANTUM LEAP
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rhetoric, Pinsky walks the high wire between fictive and sacred;
in many poems, becoming the self-appointed seer. “The Hearts”
is a tou r de force that describes the existential dilemma o f spir­
itual estrangement:
To Buddha every distinct thing is illusion
And becoming is destruction, but still we sing
In the shower. I do. In the beginning God drenched
The Emptiness with images . . .
(“The Hearts”)
By jux taposing a 1957 recording o f Lee Andrews and The
Hearts with visions o f seraphim, “the holy,” and the mystic d i­
chotomy o f self-identity, Pinsky skillfully makes his point by as­
suming the vantage o f the beholder. This stylistic invention p e r­
mits him to distance himself from the num inous, to avoid the
pitfalls o f introspective poetry: self-indulgence, overstatement,
and overreaction.
One o f the most powerful pieces in the collection is a long
prose poem, “Jesus and Isolt,” that grapples with the dualism
o f Judeo-Christian morality by presenting the Christ figure in
the form o f a “ciclogriff,” who visits legendary heroine Isolt
and her warrior lover Tristam . On the Earth plane, he witnesses
first-hand, the absolution o f mortal sin by translation o f gore
into the jewelled artifice o f balladic poetry. Doubletalk, blasphe­
my, indifference, and uncontrollable biological drives are ulti­
mately the downfall o f nothing and no one, concludes Pinsky,
as the defeated seer-ciclogriff re tu rns to the palace o f God’s
holy angels, defeated in his efforts to save the lovers from dam ­
nation. Further, concludes the poet, if we choose to be physical
beings and bypass cosmic connectedness, if we opt for ar t and
the senses, sensuality, we must pay the consequences by sacri­
ficing spiritual consummation.
In
A Walk with Tom Jefferson,
Philip Levine asks:
Why am I so quiet?
This is the end of the world, I am dreaming the
end of the world, and I go from bed
to bed bowing to the small damp heads
of my sons in a bedroom that turns
slowly from darkness to fire. Everyone
else is gone, their last words reach us in the
language of light.
(“Waking in March”)