Conversations with Survivors: Poems

Jacqueline Osherow, Author University of Georgia Press $14.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8203-1612-3

``For so long,'' begins one of Osherow's ( Looking for Angels in New York ) poems, ``I have wanted relatively nothing / Except, perhaps, this chance to write it down.'' Some of our best conversations take place in retrospection--or within ourselves, where we have all the time we need. And Osherow is in no rush. Written in a loose but carefully managed blank verse and with a restrained narrative voice, these poems are intent on assessing the seemingly sharp division between one's personal experiences and the larger context of history. Many are ruminative eulogies, songs and epistles that meticulously chronicle the poet's response to such figures as Rilke and Victor Jara. To some readers, the long, subdued poems may occasionally seem laborious; for others, her insightful, self-effacing style will resonate. In ``A Would-Be Song For David Ruffin,'' for example, she realizes that her lament is not only for the death of the ex-Temptations singer but also for herself: ``I don't even know if I've paid tribute / Or used you yet again, this time as pretext / For remembering.'' It is refreshing to find a writer so at home with the long poem. (May)