BEFORE ITS LIGHT
Lifshin always wields the same power of evocation, whether its Mama poems or poems about ruins in Arizona:
("In My Mothers Last Hours," p. 117_
("Arizona Ruins" p. 220)
No one is more precise, focused, as deftly impressionistic as Lifshin and there has never been a wider range of her poetry in any other collection.
Lots of family poems, inventive poems about Marilyn Monroe, doing New York with Jesus, Rosh Hodesh, the Jewish New Year, New Mexico, erotica its all here, all held together by the same preciseness that never slides over into anything trite.
Youre totally brought into a little poem-world, and the precision of the language/imagery wrestles you to the ground:
"Somewhere when she was a child on long slow
( "My Neighbor in her Veils" p. 150)
Persimmons, crumpled saffron, garlic, plus plums, papaya seeds Its always taste, touch, seeing, feelings. Theres no one else around more vivid and its always a vividness that dwells on the incidentals that are the essentials. Like these lines from the Plymouth diaries: "Mis in the valley./ the children sleep, goats milk on their/ faces. A woman sprinkling rose leaves in the linen...thinks / of alewives, silver,/ their greyish green blending/ with whats around them..." Its hard to stop reading. Lifshin is our word-Money, and luckily she hasnt felt the need to go x-perimental, strenuously experiential or get on any of those other boats floating into obscurity that seem so tempting to other poets on the scene.
Review by Hugh Fox
Last updated: December 27, 2000