Present Tense, by Anna Rabinowitz, phases through genres, using poetry as a vehicle to explore politics, gender, culture and human nature. The book opens with a prologue, a single sentence that declares the purpose of the book and the long list of who the book is for:
This writing is for the ones who inhabit elsewhere and for
those faces that appear on my inner lids as they close, for
me with Richie on the tricycle navigating fenced shrubs
and cement pathways between blades of grass, for Mr.
Bernstein’s laundry store redolent of boiled starch, for
umbrellas on the beach, waves whacking and wildering,
for lying perfectly still while heat runnels through groins,
underarms, neck, for the children, good morning, freshing,
sparkly day, give me a hug, for my mother who could not
stay, for my father who didn’t want to, for those denied
choice, for hate that stains the playing fields of men…
The lengthy credo helps the reader to anticipate the range in the writing that follows, and to expect the all-encompassing aspect of the poetry. The stretch of the book can be overwhelming at times, feeling as if it is lacking focus, but this is perhaps purposeful, mimicking the chaos of modern day living.
Present Tense is divided into four acts, the format of a play suiting it particularly as it delves into the drama of life and the various influences of our culture. Rabinowitz incorporates various styles in her poetry—free verse, glossary, list poems, sectioned poetry, narrative, and the list goes on. Her poems integrate a vast array of elements, taking from everything—from historical events to interviews, citing Woody Allen and Proverbs.