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This review is taken from PN Review 135, Volume 27 Number 1, September - October 2000.

TAPS ROBERT PINSKY, Jersey Rain (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) $21.00

Errancy - knightly and otherwise - seems to be on the minds of American poets these days and there is an interesting contrast between the Pinsky of Jersey Rain and the Jorie Graham of The Errancy and The Swarm. Graham wants a language and poetics which fragments and splinters as it goes out into the world. Pinsky takes a more traditional (masculine?) view of the errant, maintaining the distance between observer and object - a distance signalled by austere and chaste (masculine?) language. Jersey Rain's poems are bracketed by two poems on errancy. He begins with 'Samurai Song' with the Samurai as mendicant: 'When I had no temple I made / My voice my temple. I have / No priest, my tongue is my choir.' Against the austere stringency of the samurai, is 'The Knightly Prayer' where austerity proves an intellectual pose, impossible to sustain in life:

He had read: a standard he admired
Not in the name of love
But for its stringency: the gauntlet
Of chainmail not folded
On the breviary, but brandished
Able for the task.

In Graham, there is always a rushing out which blows her poems apart. For Pinsky there is a rushing in: 'all of life flowing at once / Toward the new, incompetent soul.' Directly after 'The Knight's Prayer', 'Jersey Rain' concludes the book with foaming overflows of water:

The source of art and woe aslant in wind ...


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