While one poem of Jacqueline Osherow’s might begin conversationally with, “Mom! Guess what? I didn’t inherit nothing—,” another might delve into quandaries of poetic thought ending with, “There’s a real chance I have it wrong,/ ... All the songs have already been sung.”
Osherow, writing from what she calls the Jewish tradition, has degrees from Radcliffe College, Harvard University and Princeton University, and now serves as the distinguished professor of English at the University of Utah. Her six collections of poetry—including the new Whitethorn—have always philosophically explored the world with a surprisingly approachable pen.
It is that inviting, conversational tone that allows her to use formal structures—e.g., terza rima and the double sestina—and to explore such heavy issues as modern Jewish-ness, biblical inconsistencies and the horrific implications of the Holocaust, without isolating the reader. Such a strong yet understanding voice allows her space to ponder just how long ago the world began wondering if all the songs had indeed been sung.