“Suitor” by Joshua Rivkin— Desire, Family, Memory and Forgiveness

Rivkin, Joshua. “Suitor”, Red Hen Press, 2020.

Desire, Family, Memory and Forgiveness

Amos Lassen

In “Suitor” Joshua Rivkin’s writes of desire, history, memory and forgiveness. He examines maleness as it is in the world today and how he sees it.Divided in two sections with a lyric essay, “The Haber Problem”; we read of suitors as an observer in the first section and in the second section, the observer becomes the subject.

It begins with a group of poems abouta mother’s boyfriends and lovers, and how these relationships influence the poet’s  understanding about Eros and masculinity. The essay, “The Haber Problem,” retells the story of the scientist Fritz Haber. Other poems then deal with the past with erotically and through desire and longing  directness, longing, and lyric intensity. We are led to think about what it means to be a suitor and to follow and chase our desires.

Rivkin’s mother had quite a collection of boyfriends and we read of them in the opening poem. We also read how the poet perceived them. We then move on the essay where the subject is compared to the writer’s father, who left his family in the name of science. Even with that we see that the poet still loved his father. We then move to the second section which is a collection of the poet’s sexual relationships with men and women, real or imagined and human desire.

Taken as a whole, the poems are an exploration of desire, history, family and memory. Rivkin looks at the psyche through poems about sex. He looks at the relationship between parents and children and how their stories make up the story of civilization as it is. Rivkin studies behavior to show the yearning for connection with others. We are all waiting for that connection.