Goldbarth ad Parnassum

posted by Margot Lurie

The recently released tenth volume of the Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization contains a prose poem by Albert Goldbarth entitled “Parnassus”—published, naturally, in Parnassus Volume 17, No. 1/Volume 18, No.2. The speaker of the poem, asked to be the tenth man in a prayer quorum, ends with a sweet fusion of the Hebraic and the Hellenic:

                        This is why I believe in the Muses, of course.

                        There were nine of them.

                        And ever since, if I’ve been invited to join them for a moment, to sing along as a
tenth—though they may have scraped the bottom of the barrel to get my number, I go.

I wrote to Parnassus‘ editor Herbert Leibowitz to get his take on the poem, and this is what he recalled about its original publication:

Ah, I remember very keenly that prose-poem memoir Goldbarth wrote and we published: “Parnassus” in Parnassus. I don’t recall if that was his debut in the magazine or a thank you for publishing him. I was President of the National Book Critics Circle the year he was awarded his first NBCC Prize in Poetry [Goldbarth is the only poet to have twice received the award]. His acceptance speech was vintage Goldbarth: like a Puritan preacher, he chastised the assembled editors and publishers for not giving poetry its deserved share of attention and he got them to repent their sins against the Nine Muses and promise to buy at least one book of poetry a year. Alas, there was no way of monitoring how quickly they became backsliders.

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Publisher & Editor: Herbert LEIBOWITZ
Co-Editor: Ben DOWNING
Associate Editors:
Will BREWER, Jeffrey GREGGS
Assistant Editors:
Max RITVO,
Claire SIBLEY
Design and Art Direction: Alyssa VARNER
Printer: Cadmus Press

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