The Two Yvonnes, a new collection of poems by upstreet Poetry Editor Jessica Greenbaum, has been released by Princeton University Press as part of the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets. This series, edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and New Yorker poetry editor Paul Muldoon, publishes the best work of today’s emerging and established poets.
Jessica Greenbaum’s narrative poems, in which objects and metaphor share highest honors, achieve revelation through close observation of the everyday. Riding on Kenneth Koch’s instruction to “find one true feeling and hang on,” The Two Yvonnes overtakes the present with candor, meditation, and the classic aspiration to shape lyric into a lasting force. Moving from 1960s Long Island, to 1980s Houston, to today’s Brooklyn, the poems range in subject from the pages of the Talmud to a squirrel trapped in a kitchen.
One poem looks into the past at the boy next door dribbling a basketball as “forty years later, hearing a basketball tock / on the sidewalk below my window, I am returned / to my first room,” while another observes that “the white truck traveling the span of the Williamsburg Bridge / could be the white fastener traveling the top of a ziplock bag.” Another poem defines the speaker via a “Packing Slip” of her personal characteristics—“Raynaud’s disease causes numbness in digits / when cold, often followed by sense of homesickness for some place as yet / unnamed;” the title poem, in which the speaker and two friends navigate their way through a series of flawed memories about one another, reflects the human frailties that shape so much of the collection.
Jessica Greenbaum is the author of the award-winning poetry collection Inventing Difficulty (Silverfish, 2000). Her poems and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, The Nation, Poetry, Southwest Review, Ploughshares, Salamander, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn, and has been upstreet’s Poetry Editor since 2006.