September 23, 2007

New on the Bookshelves from two poets

It can be as hard for new books to find an audience as for readers to find new books they will enjoy.  So I’ve asked two poets to introduce City Type readers to their new collections.  Happy reading!

Richard Hoffman is the author of the memoir Half the House and the poetry collection Without Paradise.  His new collection, Gold Star Road (Barrow Street Press, New York, 2007) is the winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize:

The poems of Gold Star Road were written as the country was preparing for war, after the war began, and then while the war continued. Many of the poems ask how we are to respond to the in-your-face savagery not only of this particular war, but of the increasingly militarized and brutalizing culture of avarice spawned by global capitalism. How do we maintain some kind of faith in humanity when we are daily exposed to examples of depravity, deceit, and barbarity? How do we situate ourselves in relation to that knowledge? What does it take to stay sane and see clearly? These questions seem to me to be unavoidable. Of course the poems do not answer these questions, but they are the questions I struggle with, and so they animate the poems.

The title Gold Star Road refers to a street in my neighborhood in North Cambridge, but also to all the streets so named in towns and cities across the country: Gold Star Road (or Street or Boulevard) is the designation given to that street whose residents have suffered the greatest number of  combat fatalities. It seemed a subtle way to indicate, when considered in light of the poems, that we are, in many ways, all on Gold Star Road, all involved in the repeated sacrifice of the young to the inhuman machinery of war.

Though the book’s concerns are serious, I hope the poems give pleasure too, serious pleasure, providing what Frost called “a momentary stay against confusion.”

Here is a poem from Gold Star Road:

Miracle at Bethany

Why? asked Lazarus.
Why come forth?
Is there peace? Are we now
in the time of justice?

I dream of these things
in the dark, in the earth.
It is my work, brother.
Leave me to it.

David McCann, is Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Literature at Harvard University. His new collection of poems is The Way I Wait for You (Codhill Press, New Paltz, NY, 2007):

I grew up in Cambridge. In a very old picture, I am lying in the stroller my mother has pushed up by the statue of John Harvard. No sign of a shiny toe on the statue, back then. I am always amazed, how poems write themselves through me. They are “about” places I’ve been and people I’ve known, books I’ve read, but they always catch me by surprise, first when I am writing them, and then when I read them again. They are about themselves too. The title poem for the book, “The Way I Wait for You,” is about someone else, and waiting to get back to her after a long journey. But I realize it’s also about the poem and its readers, including me. And my father, when he read it he translated it into French.

I won’t try to fool you
into thinking this poem is about
>the way I wait for you to look
out your window and see.

I won’t spend these precious lines
in rueful anticipation
of the moment someone notes
the lift in my voice, my heart.

Were there anyplace else to go
I would go there and wait
like the domestic cat turning
round and round in a place to lie;

or wander the hillsides,
>climbing the cobbled streets
to find the house with the window
where I know you will be.

I won’t try to fool you
into thinking this poem
is about the way I wait for you.
Look out your window and see.

Nick Nixon's photographs can be seen at www.fraenkelgallery.com.

 
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©2007 Ellen Steinbaum

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