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for the 21st century

WINTER 2022-23

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Ellen Rittberg

HE IS WALKING WIDER  (Kelsay Books, 2021)

There is something very New York about this fine collection by Ellen Pober Rittberg – despite the geographic and psychic reach of the poems included in it, these are the singular poems of a true New Yorker, replete with an ingratiating interior/exterioriality singular to the American ‘Big City’ poet.

There’s humor in this collection, and social witness. But what sticks is the quickness of perception — particularly in the quirky and wise observations the poet draws from the imposing plethora of experience life in a busy metropolis can be. Koan-like images are massaged out of the cacophany in a manner that only a tried and true denizen of New York can execute, one who pays close attention to everything while seeming to not pay any attention. In “Subway Poses,” for example, Rittberg delivers incisive snapshots gathered with a ‘street-smart’ aplomb which belies the Whitmanic enthusiasm she holds for the multitudinous.
One man stands “egret-eyed steady,/ fingers bent, a crab’s claw/ draped across his face;’ another is ‘a Peter Lorre look-alike/ plants himself athwart the door. / An exaggerated specimen /of adult male Homo sapien
      he’s a sideshow
      attraction: the muscleman,
      the only thing missing:
      a handlebar mustache.

This imagistic skill – the ability to find character in the smallest perceptual detail – takes on its truest force, however, in the intimate family poems she shares with her readers. Poems for father, mother, child, all imbued in possession of an emotional honesty and fullness that cannot fail to win the willing reader’s heart.

As fellow NYC poet Karen Neuberg says, in Ellen Rittberg’s poems, we are treated to poetry that offers up ‘astute attention to the details of everyday life that resonate with and caress the heart.”