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For Educators

A Form of Optimism
Roy Jacobstein; Lucia Perillo, intro.

Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize

Northeastern University Press
2006 • 80 pp. 6 x 9"

$15.95 Paperback, 978-1-55553-665-7

“ . . . He shows himself capable of some truly fresh and vivid writing.”New York Times Book Review

Filtered through the twin lenses of human history and personal memory, and suffused with ironic appreciation, A Form of Optimism engages in a prismatic meditation on beauty and evil, cornucopia and loss. The book becomes a lyrical mosaic, its compelling poems the broken pieces: sharp-edged and colorful, translucent, evocative. Drawing on the author’s cross-cultural work in international health, the poems range widely and naturally across setting, personage, and tongue—from Istanbul to Detroit, Mother Teresa to Gorm the Old, Swahili to Sanskrit. Variously anxious, rueful, witty, tender, and worn, A Form of Optimism transcribes an arc of compassion and hope, embracing the sublime mysteries of the world and the word.

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“After assessing the dark tone of the book's poetry, one is initially struck by the quality of language. There is beauty in these lines... Jacobstein manages these moments of beauty and pathos almost flawlessly, propelling the reader across the globe and into fragile moments of childhood."Adam McGraw, Arts & Letters

"Jacobstein's poems are both accessible and powerful."
Blogcrictics magazine

"A number of his early poems reflected his experiences in medicine, but his poet's eye and pen roam over what sometimes seems like the whole world, past and present."Chapel Hill News


“If poets were athletes, Roy Jacobstein’s specialty would be the triple jump, that graceful, hysterical combination of running and leaping that can take a competitor fifty feet or more. Look at a poem like ‘The Mystery and Melancholy of the Street,’ for example, in which he sails all the way from Pago Pago to Argentina to Billie Holiday to Benjamin Franklin in just a few lines. And when the intern treating his busted cl;avicle says “hoops,” he thinks of the little girl in Giorgio di Chirico’s famous painting, rolling her hoop into the ominous shade. And out again: not in the painting, but in Jacobstein’s mind, so agile and richly imaginative that his every glance amounts, as the title of this collection says, to a form of optimism.”David Kirby

“From a calligraphy shop in Istanbul to advertisements for caskets and toothpaste in Lilongwe, to a bottle cap of Faygo Red Pop, ‘carbonated taste of the Midwest,’ Roy Jacobstein’s curious, unflinching eyes see more than most of us ever could. He reveals the blinding complexity of a world that encompasses both Hitler’s watercolors and ‘the gold glinting from an armadillo’s shell.’ Jacobstein’s poems are as exquisitely crafted as a mosaic in Topkapi, and like Rilke’s, they say to us in a voice we can trust, ‘You must change your life.’ Courageous and sensual, these poems ‘claw deep into hard ground.’”—Robert Thomas, author of Door to Door and Dragging the Lake


1st Place Prize in the Society for Humanistic Anthropology's Ethnographic Poetry Competition 2006

Author Photo

ROY JACOBSTEIN’s first book of poetry, Ripe, won the Felix Pollak Prize. His poetry appears in many literary publications, including the Gettysburg Review, Parnassus, Poetry Daily, Shenandoah, the Threepenny Review, and TriQuarterly. He is the recipient of a Reader’s Choice Award from Prairie Schooner and of Mid-American Review’s James Wright Prize. Robert Hass selected his poems as Runner-up for the Iowa Review’s 2005 Poetry Award, and another poem has been included in LITERATURE: Reading Fiction, Poetry & Drama (2006). He holds B.A., M.D. and M.P.H. degrees from the University of Michigan, and an M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College. A public health physician and former official of the U.S. Agency for International Development, he works in Africa and Asia on women’s reproductive health programs and lives with his wife and daughter in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. LUCIA PERILLO has published four collections of poetry; her latest, Luck Is Luck, is one of the New York Public Library’s “Books to Remember” of 2005. She lives in Olympia, Washington.

Wed, 20 Jun 2012 09:54:33 -0500