A Measured Feast

By Martin Berman-Gorvine

Contemporary poetry on Jewish religious subjects is rare in America outside the pages of specialized Jewish publications. Thus, Peg Duthie’s delightful new collection Measured Extravagance (Upper Rubber Boot Books) is doubly welcome.

Full disclosure: Peg and I attended the University of Chicago together, and she was a regular contributor to a student poetry magazine I founded and edited. That was more than twenty years ago, and her poetic gifts have if anything expanded and deepened over time.

Measured Extravagance contains only 35 poems, which in olden times would have made it a “chapbook.” Since it is available only in e-book format, I suppose we must call it an “e-chapbook.” There are disadvantages to this format, especially for a poet who makes such artful use of line and stanza breaks as Duthie does, and I found myself printing the whole thing out for a better view of what she was up to

For example, in the seasonably appropriate “Kol Nidre,” Duthie makes her line-breaks occasions for building suspense and the dropping of small surprises:

Sloppy work,

she tells Him. I can’t love anyone

proud of setting me up to fail.

The poem captures perfectly the ambivalence of the modern American Jew estranged from her religion and yet still tied to the tradition through ambiguous, dubious emotional bonds:

…Yet, the years

she pretended the holidays weren’t hers,

she felt like an incomplete book, like a spine

losing its glue, pages dropping away

before their time.

“Shehechianu,” titled after the prayer recited to thank God for “enabling us” to live to see a holiday or other special occasion, explores the disjuncture between religious experience and modern hyper-secularism, and whether there is any spiritual value to be found in the latter:

After sundown,

after its prayers

leave me more restless than at rest,

I walk past clusters of clubgoers,

of people in line for shows, for seats

in small booths and at narrow tables.



am not waiting

to be served

or saved.

I am here

to be moved

by how you are holding your breath.

A minor epiphany, to be sure, and perhaps an unsatisfying one. There is more raw emotional power in the poem “In Memory Of,” where no religious comfort seems to be available to comfort the mourner:

My aunt hanged herself, but her children

told the press she’d overdosed on pills.

It was in fact pills for the boyfriend of

my then best friend…

There are cautious experiments with form and rhyme, notably in the smudged villanelle “Schrödinger’s Top Hat” (a form I have experimented with myself). Peg is a poet we must hope to hear more from.

2 responses to “A Measured Feast

  1. francesco miglino


    Gentilissima Michelle,

    La ringrazio cordialmente per le ragioni politiche che motivano l invito a partecipare alla campagna elettorale, invito che ho accolto con vivo gradimento, ma che per il momento non mi possibile onorare con la partecipazione diretta per pregressi ed urgenti impegni presi per soccorrere l infanzia greca devastata dal collaudato sistema della grande finanza che indebita i popoli privi di sovranit monetaria per impoverirli e depredarli .

    Oggi in Europa operano gli stessi gruppi finanziari che hanno distrutto e distruggono l esistenza di quei milioni di americani che hanno votato Barack Obama affinch li difendesse dalle ingiustizie e dallo strapotere distruttivo della finanza che ancora oggi detta legge gettando nella paura di un avvenire incerto milioni di famiglie americane.

    Il popolo di internet, con i propri contributi, ha voluto che Barack Obama fosse liberato dalla sudditanza alle lobbies ed alle banche e che applicasse i principi della Costituzione Americana sedendo fra i grandi Presidenti che hanno amato ed emancipato gli Stati Uniti d America,

    DEDALO ROOSEVELT che nel congresso del 6 gennaio 1941, conclam le quattro libert fondamendali: *libert di parola, libert di credo, libert dal bisogno e libert dalla paura;*

    *JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY,* che con *L ORDINE ESECUTIVO 11110 FIRMATO il 4 GIUGNO 1963 *riafferm la sovranit monetaria che appartiene al popolo americano come stabilito dalla Costituzione americana e dal Congresso.

    Gentile Michelle, le stratificazioni sociali americane che hanno votato Suo marito vogliono che Barack Obama sia un grande presidente e dia un segno di essere determinato con fermezza alla realizzazione dei principi di civilt della Costituzione Americana contro gli abusi e le violazioni della finanza e delle banche che avviliscono impunemente e da troppo tempo la vita degli americani ed ora anche la vita dei popoli europei.




  2. Burdock Roots

    People might not want to believe me about the Burdock Root but that’s okay because people are commonly skeptical about things that they are not familiar with. The same thing happened in music with Rap and Rock n Roll which nobody thought would last passed their first decade. Burdock Root has been around since forever but I am just coming into this knowledge. I am so happy I did.

    Burdock Root has changed my life dramatically. I feel 20 years younger and I’m only 38 years old however all of the ailments that I was dealing with made me feel 20 years older. I had asthma, anemia, anxiety, sleep apnea, depression, diverticulosis, suffered from obesity, and I had years of low self-esteem due to the collective process of it all. I was torn apart and could not see why I had to be affected with these ailments and although I know it wasn’t cancer or worse, I couldn’t understand why anybody had to suffer from anything. My grandmother died from a bowel obstruction due to diverticulosis in 2010 and my mother died the year before from Multiple Sclerosis.

    Oh, if only I knew then what I know now, the two most important women in my life would still be here. However, coming from an African American family…we are only knowledgeable of what has been taught and we are not taught to live a natural healthy life because we have been raised in a racists’ society. In Africa, we knew to heal the bodies with natural herbs but we let the invaders convince the ones they kidnapped and the ones who they stories to, that this type of practice was evil and should be considered Voodoo. Isn’t it funny how anything associated with “black” is dirty, dead, or demonic?

    Oh to the lies they tell, I have come to the point where as I think that the doctors can’t really help people and not because they don’t want to but because if they did they would have no patients. No patients means, no paychecks. I am so glad about my awakening. A long time family friend, who him and his wife opened their hearts and their business up for me to come work at, when I was down and out. They own a Chinese Herb store. The only Black Owned Chinese Herb store in Ohio and maybe in America period, I don’t know I haven’t done the research. However, he started giving me cups of Burdock Root everyday and I have nothing but positive remarks to say and I’m not being paid to say these things and they don’t even know that I am writing this.

    I’m writing this to help change your life with herbs. Herbs can fight against whatever you’re going through. All of the prior mentioned ailments that I told you I suffered with are now non-existent in my body. I can tell you that when I came back to Cleveland, OH from Atlanta, GA in May I was weighing 280lbs and now here in December I weigh 235. And honestly, even though I can’t see my own weight lost yet, I know that I’m looking good from the response from the opposite gender…lol now that’s real nice. Not only have I lost weight but also I have stopped smoking. I hadn’t even planned on stopping. Of course everyday I smoked I thought about ooh is this going to be the puff to give me cancer and I subconsciously wanted to stop at that particular time I wasn’t consciously looking to stop. Yet, the burdock root stopped the craving for nicotine. I don’t want a cigarette even if I see someone else smoking one which used to be a very big trigger for me when I did try to stop on my own.

    I want you to not take my word for it and I want you to try some for yourself today. I want you to do your research. When you’re skeptical don’t just brush it off from your mechanical institutionalized thinking, try it for your self. I figure if you are already afflicted by some type of sickness what do you have to lose in trying something else? Benefits of burdock root is not limited to the things that I was going through, it has been known to help with acne, bladder infections, fibroid tumors and just so much more. Stop living in pain. Get results within a few days…feel young again. Think back you rarely see Asians in the hospital other then them being the doctors or nurses and that’s because they know about natural herbs. They know that Africans and Asians were the first two nationalities that the Most High created and He gave us herbs to live off of, not manufactured man made drugs that only make you sicker. Stop the madness, and start you a holistic lifestyle and incorporate Burdock Root don’t wait another minute.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s