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Robert Pinsky on Jan Richman's Because the Brain Can Be Talked Into Anything

Written by

Robert Pinsky
Contributor Page

Year

2004

Jan Richman was the winner of the 1994 Walt Whitman Award for her first collection of poems, Because the Brain Can Be Talked Into Anything (Louisiana State University Press, 1995). The judge for the award was Robert Pinsky, who wrote the following citation.


The rowdy, restless intelligence of Jan Richman's work is not just for show: these poems have a sense of purpose. They establish an identity--sexual, personal, social, historical--for which survival means defiance, resisting all sorts of expectations, cants, conventions, rote or cautionary voices. Richman's wit is ready to question anything, including the poses of identity itself. This ardent, sardonic skepticism, directed toward inner as well as outer voices, is reflected by the titles of the book's two sections: "Part I, Reasons" and "Part II, Excuses."

"I alone can perfectly forge my signature," Richman writes in "Why I'm the Boss." That provisional yet audacious claim captures this poet's distinctive authority. Underlying the attractive, flamboyant, often comic rhetoric of this splendid first book is the untamed seriousness of art.