Review by Natasha Kochicheril Moni
THE INSATIABLE PSALM
by Yermiyahu Ahron Taub
Wind River Press, Hershey, Pennsylvania; ISBN# 0-9721513-8-9, 144pp., $14.00
In the reading and rereading of The Insatiable Psalm, the author's intention to establish a deliberate, full work is evident from the use of all non-caps to the repetitive one-stanza form to the marriage of prose and music (which sometimes reveals an almost magical realist perspective) to the inclusion of 90 poems. In contrast to poets whose work may be accessed upon first study with each subsequent study revealing a finer music/layer, Taub, for me, had to be assimilated on a more cellular level. As with a stroll through Hollywood Cemetery whose grounds emanate peace, whose grounds were constructed with each rolling hill and circular path placed purposefully to evoke a sense of tranquility alongside a river (the James) whose symbolism has been likened to the Jordan, Taub's work leaves me with a sense of culture, symmetry, prayerfulness, unanswered questions.
And with this adherence to a rigid form, Taub does allow some room for play with line breaks sometimes employing enjambment sometimes not, more often than not exhibiting a control whose nature I may only assume relates to a more ordered view of a higher source/faith. To his credit, Taub provides his audience the context of space within form, which aids in tracking flow/building tension in poems such as "immigrant eyes, averted":
we lived in small places,
the dangers (the fiery puddles all around)
dotted the streets;
we had long been warned of their persistence.
but we could also let go, drink deep.
you see, this is how it was:
stories of supreme flying men and tenor-spirited
detectives could enter,
if not through the living room,
then over the wail of summer infant
and the fire escape
and into the bedroom.
over potatoes and purple orbs,
or in "father grocer":
it was on the corner,
where he enacted our livelihood,
in jar of can and row of cane, days were painted.
not in muted sepia, as today, but in tones of
flour poured forth from wells of dust,
boxes sighed in ancient knowing,
The Insatiable Psalm presents many character sketches which when placed together as a collection should illustrate a larger story, perhaps a bit (auto)biographical but as the "Poet's Notes" claim at the beginning, take heed when assuming. When most successful, Taub's poems maintain a certain trajectory, building suspense or question and resolving with grace such as in "moly neni's song":
on marcy avenue the rains came,
and two girls emerged to investigate.
through open fingers they felt
the presence of ghosts they had
only chattered about in periods of study.
one had saucers for hands,
pooled swords of porcelain, really,
brimming with candy corn.
at first, the girls simply admired the candy colors--
. . . they lifted the hems of their nightgowns and fled,
two specks of white framed by curtains so blue,
into fields of corn of just one color.
Other times Taub's poems end on a flatter note, leaving me with the desire to experience something more--a question that extends beyond the insular and reaches toward the universal. This, within itself, is a difficult feat for a poet and becomes even more apparent when a collection is composed primarily of one-stanza pieces that span 136 pages (something that would seem more appropriate for a selected works.)
That being said, The Insatiable Psalm still offers much for study, generations of Jewish descent explored within the relationship of family/immediate environs/the newness of a second homeland. Beyond the topic matter, Taub reveals himself a capable author with directives such as:
you must broaden the scope of your inquiry.
conduct fieldwork among cousins scattered
in walled enclaves
and the settlements outside the old old city, perhaps. . .
you will gain insight into the strategies of decay.
(from "memorandum to the beleaguered graduate student")
allowing the reader to participate in a more active role to understanding a more personal history, while enjoying a cohesive tone/voice that make Taub's first book a unified, thoughtful collection worth reviewing.
Natasha Kochicheril Moni resides in the Puget Sound where she works as an LMP, writes reviews / poetry, and acts as editor-in-chief for Crab Creek Review. For more information regarding her work, please visit her website at www.natashamoni.com