The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn

poems by Jean Nordhaus.

Milkweed Editions.
66pgs. $14.95 (ISBN: 1-57131-414-8)

To bring back the dead is a holy act. To do so in literature is the way humankind endures. Jean Nordhaus’s new book The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn adds to our knowledge and belief in poetry as the history of sensibilities. Moses Mendelssohn was known previous to this book, as the grandfather of composers Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn. Through these elegant moments of poetry we find the heart of Moses who became a linguist, metaphysician, philosopher. Many have pointed to poems left from Plutarch’s time arguing that these are the human records remaining from that era. It is with gratitude that history accepts poetry; otherwise our writings through the ages would leave us land transactions and cattle sales. I think about this as I read of Moses Mendelssohn, “an amorous Jew gazing at luminous suns and moons.” Such a book as this, of the dead, is a legacy for those unborn.