The Hoopoe’s Crown: Poems by Jacque­line Osherow

Jacque­line Osherow
  • Review
By – June 25, 2012
Drawn to seek but not to ful­ly under­stand, the poet ques­tions, pon­ders, ana­lyzes, inter­prets, and waits for inspi­ra­tion. Tak­en from the sto­ry in which the Hoopoe bird pro­vides pro­tec­tive cov­er for the head of King Solomon through­out a very long jour­ney, the title poem exem­pli­fies more than the narrator’s scathing crit­i­cism of Solomon’s life. Indeed the wis­dom of the ancient King’s deci­sion to divide a con­test­ed child in two leaves her cold. One crit­i­cism leads to anoth­er, includ­ing one not­ing how fan­tas­tic was Solomon’s idea to build a showy tem­ple for a peo­ple who had so lit­tle faith at that time, how Solomon was just too dumb to “…fac­tor in the pound­ing sun (appar­ent­ly the refine­ments of his wisdom/don’t extend them­selves to head cov­er­ings)…,” and how he end­ed his life wor­ship­ping idols. On and on her reflec­tions go, but they end with quite a punch: “…But I have learned something;/it’s a bank­rupt busi­ness, ornamentation,/idolatrous, at worst; at best, an aching/​absence of what­ev­er it is that matters./Alittle wis­dom is a relent­less thing…” The remain­der of the col­lec­tion con­sists of mus­ings com­posed dur­ing the poet’s sojourn in Israel, a place she expe­ri­enced as aus­tere” and which made her won­der exact­ly what is good and what is evil. Rather than putting off the read­er, these poems are riv­et­ing in their con­ver­sa­tion­al inten­si­ty but light­ness. The read­er rec­og­nizes how deeply the author has been touched on read­ing Slim Fan­ta­sia on a Few Words from Hosea.” Repeat­ed­ly, the pat­tern seems to be nar­ra­tive attack but in between and with­in the words is the essence of what is mov­ing the poet’s mind, heart, and Spir­it, “…hey, big­mouth poet,/lifting the gem-/stones from the Bible:/take words with you/​and return to God.” Indeed, the hoopoe’s crown has cov­ered Solomon, and God’s wis­dom con­tin­ues to move Jews in Israel and elsewhere.
Deb­o­rah Schoen­e­man, is a for­mer Eng­lish teacher/​Writing Across the Cur­ricu­lum Cen­ter Coor­di­na­tor at North Shore Hebrew Acad­e­my High School and coed­i­tor of Mod­ern Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture: A Library of Lit­er­ary Crit­i­cism, Vol. VI, pub­lished in 1997.

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