Twice a finalist for the National Book Award, Alicia Ostriker has published fourteen poetry collections, including The Book of Seventy, which received the 2009 National Jewish Book Award for Poetry. To further our celebration of National Poetry Month, Ostriker has allowed us to reprint a poem from her newest collection, The Book of Life: Selected Jewish Poems 1979-2011.
Ostriker begins the preface to this new collection with two questions: “What is it to be a Jewish poet? What is it to be a Jewish woman poet?” “I did not always ask these questions,” she continues.
“My writing life has evolved from being an American poet in the wake of Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams. I have been a disciple of Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Lucille Clifton, and a hundred others. Jewishness has grown on me like a taste for herring, it has gone to my head like a needle in a sweatshop relentlessly stitching, it has bathed my heart like a fountain of irresistibly sweet language.
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