The Instant of Knowing

Lectures, Criticism, and Occasional Prose
Josephine Jacobsen
Edited by Elizabeth Spires
A rich assortment of the writings of rediscovered octogenarian poet Josephine Jacobsen


Josephine Jacobsen, born in 1908, had her first poem published when she was just ten years old. Though Jacobsen has been writing and publishing for almost eighty years, she remained outside the literary world until she was named Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1971. She has since been honored numerous times, receiving such prestigious awards as the annual Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The Instant of Knowing: Lectures, Criticism and Occasional Prose joins recent collections of Jacobsen's poetry and short stories, bringing together for the first time the highlights of this distinguished poet's long and varied career as a literary critic, lecturer, and reviewer. Of special interest are two lectures delivered at the Library of Congress while she was Consultant in Poetry there, and a rich assortment of never before collected op-ed and travel pieces from the Baltimore Sun. The volume also includes critical pieces on Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, e.e. cummings, Robert Lowell, A.R. Ammons, Samuel Beckett, and J.D. Salinger; an unpublished lecture, "The Admiring Bog," on the perils of poetic celebrity; and an extended interview with John Wheatcroft. The book is edited and introduced by the poet Elizabeth Spires, and concludes with three recent, uncollected poems of Jacobsen's.

Josephine Jacobsen is author of In the Crevice of Time: New and Collected Poems ( 1995), a nominee for the National Book Award, and What Goes Without Saying Collected Short Stories (1996.) She continues to live and write in Baltimore.

Elizabeth Spires is a writer-in-residence, Goucher College, Baltimore, Maryland, and the author of four collections of poetry.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . one of America's most gifted writers. . . . Her criticism on the work of Marianne Moore, Emily Dickinson, and Sylvia Plath is crucial to understanding the impact of these writers."
    --Bloomsbury Review

Look Inside


Elizabeth Spires     1

I. Memoir and Lectures

Statement and Poetry     9
Lion under Maples     10
From Anne to Marianne: Some Women in American Poetry     22
The Instant of Knowing     39
One Poet's Poetry     50
The Admiring Bog     61

II. Reviews and Criticism

Frost, Cummings, Williams: Legacy of Three Poets     75
Poet of the Particular     84
History as Death     93
Corsons Inlet     96
Stories and "Texts" by Samuel Beckett     99
The Felicity of J. D. Salinger     101

III. Travel and Op-Ed Pieces

Atlantic City Glowed like a Jewel     109
Never Was the Play the Thing     113
Happily in Transit, Transported     116
A Kind of Beginning     119
The Meaning of Arrival     122
Where the Wild Went About     125
The Swamp's Talk     128
More White than Feathers     131
The Traveler     134
The Handless Clock     137
Why You Not Say Good Morning?     140
Openness, a Vast Confusion     143
Breaking Bread Together     146
International Aspects of the Mad Hatter     149
Mayed and Traught on a Desert Island     152
To Our Waiting Names     155
Artifacts of Memory     158
Time Out of Mind     161
A Generous Disorder     164
Trees     167
A Day of One's Own     170

IV. An Interview and Four Poems

The Sisters     175
A Conversation with Her Sister     177
Voyage     206
Program     207
Piazza di Spagna     208

Product Details

  • 5-3/8 x 8.
  • 216pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2002
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06660-5

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  • $21.95 U.S.