The Two Yvonnes

Jessica Greenbaum. Princeton Univ, $29.95 (72p) ISBN 978-0-691-15662-0
Most of a life takes place between the covers of this second book from Greenbaum (Inventing Difficulty). With fluent free verse broken up by sonnets, an abecedary and a pantoun, in allegories, comic anecdotes, and pivotal, confessional memories, Greenbaum lets us travel along with her as she grows from too-patient girl to agitated student, from the mother of a sick young child to “all the sensations of being alive” after the child (to judge by the poems) has moved out. Always eloquent, Greenbaum can seem sentimental. Most of the time, though (as with Carl Dennis), her great intelligence, skill with abstraction, humor, and talent for endings raise her poems far above the mundane. Greenbaum deals especially well with the tricky, cliché-ridden subject of joy. “Gratitude’s Anniversary” connects a childhood “place of thrill and peacefulness” (and solitude) to her happiest moments as an adult. “No Ideas but in Things” follows a squirrel that the poet can’t chase from her house, though it seems really to be about empty nesters and about missing the people you love: “We name life/ in relation to whatever we step out from when we/ open the door, and whatever comes back in on its own.” (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/17/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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