Josephine Jacobsen

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Josephine Jacobsen
Born Josephine Winder Boylan
(1908-08-19)August 19, 1908
Coburg, Ontario, Canada
Died 9 July 2003(2003-07-09) (aged 94)
Cockneyville, Maryland, USA
Nationality American
Education Self-educated and private tutors
Alma mater Roland Park Country School in Baltimore
Genres Poetry, short stories, reviews
Notable works In the Crevice of Time: New and Collected Poems (1995) won the Poets' Prize.[1]
Notable awards Received multiple grants, prizes, and awards.[2]
Robert Frost Medal (1997)
Years active Eight decades[3]
Spouse Eric Jacobsen, 63 years
Children Erlend Jacobsen

Josephine Jacobsen (19 August 1908 – 9 July 2003) was an American poet, short story writer, essayist, and critic. She was appointed the twenty-first Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1971.[4] In 1997, she received the Poetry Society of America’s highest award, the Robert Frost Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry.

Birth[edit]

Josephine Jacobsen, in full Josephine Winder Jacobsen, née Josephine Winder Boylan was born August 19, 1908 in Coburg, Ontario, Canada.[5] Her birth was “premature and dramatic”. Her American parents were vacationing in Canada and anticipated her arrival several months later. The baby Jacobsen weighed only two-and-a-half pounds and was not expected to survive. However, her mother, Octavia Winder Boylan, was determined that she would survive. At age 94, recalling her birth, Jacobsen reflected, "I must have been a fierce particle."[6] Jacobsen was taken to New York at age three months.[7]

Jacobsen’s father, a doctor and amateur Egyptologist, died when she was five.[8] Her brother suffered a nervous breakdown; her mother suffered bouts of manic depression. Jacobsen found solace in reading the poetry of Robert W. Service and Rudyard Kipling and they inspired her to begin writing poetry.[9]

Education[edit]

After her father's death, Josephine and her mother traveled constantly. This prevented her from going to school. They did not settle in one place long enough for Josephine to go to school. Taught by private tutors, she became a voracious reader.[10]

At age fourteen, Jacobsen moved to Maryland with her mother and lived there until her death. There she was again educated by private tutors at Roland Park Country School in Baltimore, graduating in 1926.[11]
[12]

Jacobsen’s mother never went to college, but like her daughter she was a “tremendous reader”.[13] Thus, it followed that when her daughter’s headmistress suggested that Jacobsen go to college, her mother disagreed, so her daughter never attended college. Instead, Jacobsen “wrote, travelled, and acted with the Vagabond Players (a well-known Baltimore theatre troupe) until 1932 when she married”. Her husband was Eric Jacobsen, a tea importer. They were “happily” married for 63 years until he died in 1995.[14]

Literary career[edit]

Jacobsen's literary career began when her first poem was published in the children's St. Nicholas Magazine when she was 11 years old.[15] Jacobsen described seeing her poem in print in St. Nicholas as the “most amazing feeling” and “a special occasion”. She said that she thought, “I’m a professional poet at the age of 11.”[16] In her late teens, Jacobsen started publishing in the Junior League magazine Connected.[17]

Jacobsen’s first poetry collection, Let Each Man Remember, was published in 1940.[18] However, she did not gain widespread recognition until her 60's.[19] For Jacobsen, it was “the writing itself, not prizes or possible honors, that mattered the most”.[20] She also said that the “greatest thing” she can feel about one of her poems is that it has " helped another human being in a really bad time”.[21]

Being a fan of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, Jacobsen wrote poems on her love of baseball.[22]

Short stories and nonfiction

Jacobsen also wrote short stories, including the collections A Walk with Raschid and Other Stories (1978), On the Island (1989), and What Goes Without Saying (1996).[23]

Jacobsen’s nonfiction writing includes reviews, lectures and essays for such publications as Commonweal, The Nation, and The Washington Post. In the late 1970s, she contributed op-ed and travel essays to the Baltimore Sun.[24]

Much of Jacobsen’s best work was done in her sixties, seventies, and eighties. Her friend William Morris Meredith, Jr. told her she was "post-cocious."[25]

Honors and praise[edit]

In 1971, L. Quincy Mumford, the librarian of Congress, named her consultant in poetry for 1971-1973 and as honorary consultant in American letters from 1973 to 1979.[26]

Beginning in 1973, Jacobsen received multiple grants, prizes, and awards.[27]

Between 1978 and 1979, Jacobsen was Vice President of the Poetry Society of America.[29] From 1979 to 1983, she was a member of both the literature panel for the National Endowment for the Arts and of the poetry committee of the Folger Library.[30] In 1984, Jacobsen was lecturer for the American Writers Program annual meeting in Savannah, GA.[31]

In 1993, Jacobsen received the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America.[32] In 1994 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.[33]

In 1997, Jacobsen was awarded the Poets' Prize for her In the Crevice of Time: New and Collected Poems (1995).[34] That same year, she received the Poetry Society of America’s highest award, the Robert Frost Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry. In part, “the medal honored her legendary generosity in helping younger, struggling poets get their work published, a quality considered rare in her profession.”[35]

Jacobsen received honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters from Goucher College, Notre Dame of Maryland University, Towson University, and Johns Hopkins University.[36]

Praise
Joseph Brodsky praised Jacobsen’s poetry for its "reserve, stoic timbre, and its high precision".[37] She was known for “elegant, concise phrasing on a wide range of topics and in varied forms” in which she “plumbed questions of identity, interrelatedness and isolation”.[38]

Julie Miller commented that Jacobsen's poetry "rejoices in words for their own sake, not for the sake of the objects or ideas to which they refer. Words themselves become metaphors for the inexplicable tangle of body and spirit'. . . . Through words we are identified. They allow us to recognize and name the human experience."[39]

William Jay Smith of The New York Times Book Review praised Jacobsen's "observant eye and varied interest” and her “broad range of skillfully handled stanza forms."[40]

Joyce Carol Oates also of The New York Times Book Review compared Jacobsen with John Crowe Ransom, Emily Dickinson, and Elizabeth Bishop, all of whose poetry is "fastidiously imagined, brilliantly pared back, miniature narrative that always yields up a small shock of wonder."[41]

A Washington Post Book World review of her short stories wrote that Jacobsen is certain of "what is and is not important, and why. These stories, consequently, have a bracing rigor about them, a keen independence, and the clean ring of truth."[42]

Death[edit]

Jacobsen’s husband Eric died suddenly in December 1995 (they had been married for 63 years). They had been living in an apartment at Broadmead, a Retirement community in Cockeysville, MD outside Baltimore.[43] After her husband’s death and after several falls, Josephine moved from their apartment to assisted living at Broadmead.[44]

Jacobsen died on July 9, 2003 at Broadmead. She was 94.[45] She was survived by a son, Erlend, of Plainfield, VT, five grandchildren, and a great-grandson.[46]

A memorial Mass was offered for Jacobsen on September 4, 2003 at the Marikle Chapel of the Annunciation at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. She had been a “longtime benefactor”. [47]

Works[edit]

Jacobsen’s works are here divided into five groups.
1. Books other than collections of her poems and short stories
2. Collections of her poems and short stories, selected by Jacobsen
3. Anthologies that include Jacobsen’s poems, short stories, or other writings
4. Media
5. Lectures

Notations about some works are taken from WorldCat.

1. Books other than collections of her poems and short stories

  • Let Each Man Remember (The Kaleidograph Press, 1940)
  • A Study, with William Randolph Mueller (Faber, 1966)
  • The Testament of Samuel Beckett, with William Randolph Mueller (Hill and Wang, 1964)
  • Ionesco and Genêt: Playwrights of Silence, with William Randolph Mueller (Hill and Wang, 1968) KIRKUS REVIEW of book.
  • Leftovers: A Care Package, with William Stafford (Washington: Library of Congress, 1973)
  • One Poet's Poetry (Agnes Scott College, 1975)
  • Distances, with Barnard Taylor (The Press of Appletree Alley, 1991)

2. Collections of her poems and short stories, selected by Jacobsen

This section is divided into 2.1 Poems and 2.2 Short stories.

2.1 Poems

  • Let Each Man Remember (Kaleidograph Press, 1940)
  • For the Unlost (Contemporary Poetry, 1946)
  • The Human Climate: New Poems (Contemporary Poetry', 1953)
  • The Animal Inside (Ohio University Press 1966)
  • The Shade-Seller: New and Selected Poems (Doubleday, 1974)
  • The Chinese Insomniacs: New Poems (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981)
  • The Sisters: New and Selected Poems (Bench Press, 1987)
  • Distances (Bucknell University Press, 1992)
  • In the Crevice of Time: New and Collected Poems (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995)
“176 new and previously published poems.”
  • Contents of a Minute: Last Poems (Sarabande Books, 2008)

2.2 Short stories

  • A Walk with Raschid, and Other Stories (Jackpine Press, 1978.)
  • Adios, Mr. Moxley: Thirteen Stories (Jackpine Press, 1986)
  • On the Island: New and Selected Stories (Ontario Review Press, 1989)
  • What Goes without Saying: Collected Stories (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996/2000)
“brings together thirty of her previously published stories.”

3. Anthologies that include Jacobsen’s poems, short stories, or other writings

  • For the Unlost, ed. Mary O. Miller (Contemporary poetry, 1946)
  • Lyrics of Three Women: Poems, “Introduction” by Jacobsen (Linden Press, 1964)
  • The Best American Short Stories, 1966, ed. Martha Foley (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1966)
includes Jacobsen’s “On the Island”
  • Fifty years of the American short story; from the O. Henry awards, 1919-1970, ed. William Miller Abrahams (Doubleday, 1970)
includes Jacobsen’s “On the Island”
  • Prize Stories 1971: The O. Henry Awards, ed. William Miller Abrahams (Doubleday, 1971)
  • Prize Stories 1973: The O. Henry Awards, ed. William Miller Abrahams (Doubleday, 1973)
  • The Poet's Story, ed. Howard Moss (Macmillan Publishing Co., 2nd, 1974)
"A superb collection of short stories by twentieth-century American poets...far superior...to practically everything being done in fiction today."--Kirkus Reviews
  • A Celebration of Cats: An Anthology of Poems, ed. Jean Burden (P. S. Eriksson, 1974)
  • Prize Stories 1976: The O. Henry Awards, ed. William Miller Abrahams (Doubleday, 1976)
  • Prize Stories 1978: The O. Henry Awards, ed. William Miller Abrahams (Doubleday, 1978)
  • The Treasury of American short stories, ed. Nancy Sullivan (Doubleday, 1981)
includes Jacobsen’s “A Walk With Raschid”
  • The Haunt of Time: Chosen Poems, Old and New, ed. Henry Chapin (W. L. Bauhan, 1981).
  • Nightwalks: A Bedside Companion, ed. Joyce Carol Oates (Ontario Review Press, 1982)
includes Jacobsen’s short story “On the Island”
  • Prize Stories 1985: The O. Henry Awards, ed. William Miller Abrahams (Doubleday, 1985)
includes Jacobsen’s “The Mango Community”
  • Despite this Flesh: the Disabled in Stories and Poems, ed. Vassar Miller (University of Texas Press, 1985)
includes Jacobsen’s short story “The Glen”
  • The Substance of Things Hoped For: Short Fiction by Modern Catholic Authors, ed. John B. Breslin (Doubleday, 1986)
  • Songs of Experience: An Anthology of Literature on Growing Old, eds. Margaret Fowler and Priscilla McCutcheon (Ballantine Books, 1991)
includes Jacobsen’s short story “Jack Frost”
  • The Pushcart prize, XVI, 1991-1992: Best of the Small Presses ed. Bill Henderson (Pushcart Press, 1991).
includes Jaccobsen’s poem “The Limbo Dancer”
  • Best American Poetry, 1991, ed. Mark Strand (Collier Books, 1991)
includes Jacobsen’s “The Woods”
  • Prize Stories 1993: The O. Henry Awards, ed. William Miller Abrahams (Doubleday, 1993)
includes Jacobsen’s “The Pier-Glass”
  • Best American Poetry, 1993, eds. David Lehman and Louise Gluck (Collier Books, 1993)
  • The Instant of Knowing: Lectures, Criticism, and Occasional Prose, ed. Elizabeth Spirers (University of Michigan Press, 1997).
  • Laurels: Eight Women Poets, ed. Stacy J. Tuthill (SCOP Publications, 1998.)
“A rich assortment of the writings of rediscovered octogenarian poet Josephine Jacobsen”
  • The Best American Poetry, 1999, ed. Robert Bly (Scribner, 1999)
includes Jacobsen’s “Last Will and Testament”
  • In Brief: Short Takes on the Personal, eds. Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones (W. W. Norton, 1999).
includes Jacobsen’s “Reverie on Memory”
  • Of Leaf and Flower: Stories and Poems for Gardeners, eds. Charles Dean and Clyde Wachsberger, (Persea Books, 2001)
  • Masterplots II. Poetry Series. 4, eds. Philip K Jason and Tracy Irons-Georges (Salem Press, 2002).
  • So the Story Goes: Twenty-five Years of the Johns Hopkins Short Fiction Series, eds. John T Irwin and Jean McGarry (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005)
includes Jacobsen’s “On the Island”
  • Poetry Criticism: excerpts from criticism of the works of the most significant and widely studied poets of world literature. Volume 62, ed. Michelle Lee (Gale, 2005.)
  • Good Poems for Hard Times, ed. Garrison Keillor (Penguin, 2006)
includes Jacobsen’s “You Can Take It With You”
  • Poetry for Students: Volume 23 Presenting Analysis, Context and Criticism on Commonly Studied Poetry, Anne Marie Hacht (Gale, 2006)
includes Jacobsen’s “Fiddler crab”

4. Media

5. Lectures

  • “Two lectures: Summer Seminar of the Arts Collection” (Library of Congress, 1973)
Jacobsen contributed “From Anne to Marianne: Some Women in American Poetry”
  • “The Instant of Knowing: a lecture delivered at the Library of Congress, May 7, 1973" (Library of Congress, 1974)
  • Editor of From Anne to Marianne: Some American Women Poets (Library of Congress, 1972), reprinted as Two Lectures: Leftovers: A Care Package by William Stafford. From Anne to Marianne: Some Women in American Poetry by Josephine Jacobsen (Library of Congress, 1973)

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ “Biography of Josephine Jacobsen.” Accessed May 8, 2015.
  2. ^ John Wheatcroft, Our Other Voices: Nine Poets Speaking (Bucknell University Press, 1991), 103.
  3. ^ Maryland Women Hall of Fame.
  4. ^ Library of Congress.
  5. ^ "Josephine Jacobsen". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web.
  6. ^ “Elizabeth Spires on Josephine Jacobsen” (Poetry Society). Accessed April 18, 2016.
  7. ^ Wolfgang Saxon, “Josephine Jacobsen, 94, Former Poet Laureate,” New York Times, July 12, 2003. Accessed January 18, 2016.
  8. ^ “Elizabeth Spires on Josephine Jacobsen” (Poetry Society). Accessed April 18, 2016.
  9. ^ “Josephine Jacobsen, 1908-2003". Accessed January 6, 2016.
  10. ^ “Elizabeth Spires on Josephine Jacobsen” (Poetry Society). Accessed April 18, 2016.
  11. ^ “Josephine Jacobsen, 1908-2003". Accessed March 9, 2016.
  12. ^ Wolfgang Saxon, “Josephine Jacobsen, 94, Former Poet Laureate,” New York Times, July 12, 2003. Accessed January 18, 2016.
  13. ^ John Wheatcroft, Our Other Voices: Nine Poets Speaking (Bucknell University Press, 1991), 109.
  14. ^ “Elizabeth Spires on Josephine Jacobsen” (Poetry Society). Accessed April 18, 2016.
    Benjamin Ivry, “An Appreciation; Josephine Jacobsen's Legacy: The Physical Thrill of Poetry” (New York Times, July 19, 2003. Accessed February 18, 2016.
  15. ^ "Josephine Jacobsen". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web.
  16. ^ Grace Cavalieri, “Josephine Jacobsen.” Accessed March 20, 2016.
  17. ^ Connected.
    John Wheatcroft, Our Other Voices: Nine Poets Speaking (Bucknell University Press, 1991), 109.
  18. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web.
  19. ^ Benjamin Ivry, “An Appreciation; Josephine Jacobsen's Legacy: The Physical Thrill of Poetry” (New York Times, July 19, 2003. Accessed February 18, 2016.
  20. ^ “Elizabeth Spires on Josephine Jacobsen” (Poetry Society). Accessed April 18, 2016.
  21. ^ Grace Cavalieri, “Josephine Jacobsen.” Accessed March 20, 2016.
  22. ^ “Biography of Josephine Jacobsen” Accessed May 8, 2015.
  23. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web.
  24. ^ Josephine Jacobsen (1908 - 2003).
  25. ^ “Elizabeth Spires on Josephine Jacobsen” (Poetry Society). Accessed April 18, 2016.
  26. ^ “Biography of Josephine Jacobsen”Accessed May 8, 2015.
    Wolfgang Saxon, “Josephine Jacobsen, 94, Former Poet Laureate,” New York Times, July 12, 2003. Accessed January 18, 2016.
  27. ^ John Wheatcroft, Our Other Voices: Nine Poets Speaking (Bucknell University Press, 1991), 103.
  28. ^ John Wheatcroft, Our Other Voices: Nine Poets Speaking (Bucknell University Press, 1991), 103.
  29. ^ “Josephine Jacobsen.” Accessed April 18, 2016.
  30. ^ “Josephine Jacobsen.” Accessed April 18, 2016.
  31. ^ Poetry Foundation, “Josephine Jacobsen 1908–2003.” Accessed April 18, 2016.
  32. ^ Wolfgang Saxon, “Josephine Jacobsen, 94, Former Poet Laureate,” New York Times, July 12, 2003. Accessed January 18, 2016.
  33. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web.
  34. ^ “Biography of Josephine Jacobsen.” Accessed May 8, 2015.
  35. ^ Wolfgang Saxon, “Josephine Jacobsen, 94, Former Poet Laureate,” New York Times, July 12, 2003. Accessed January 18, 2016.
  36. ^ “Josephine Jacobsen.” Accessed April 18, 2016.
  37. ^ “Biography of Josephine Jacobsen” Accessed May 8, 2015.
  38. ^ Wolfgang Saxon, “Josephine Jacobsen, 94, Former Poet Laureate,” New York Times, July 12, 2003. Accessed January 18, 2016.
  39. ^ Poetry Foundation, “Josephine Jacobsen 1908–2003." Accessed April 18, 2016.
  40. ^ Poetry Foundation, “Josephine Jacobsen 1908–2003." Accessed April 18, 2016.
  41. ^ Poetry Foundation, “Josephine Jacobsen 1908–2003." Accessed April 18, 2016.
  42. ^ Poetry Foundation, “Josephine Jacobsen 1908–2003." Accessed April 18, 2016.
  43. ^ Broadmead.
  44. ^ “Elizabeth Spires on Josephine Jacobsen” (Poetry Society). Accessed April 18, 2016.
  45. ^ Memorial Mass, September 4, 2003.
  46. ^ Wolfgang Saxon, “Josephine Jacobsen, 94, Former Poet Laureate,” New York Times, July 12, 2003. Accessed January 18, 2016.
  47. ^ Memorial Mass, September 4, 2003.

External links[edit]