Archive for the 'Poetry' Category



Wrestling Demons

Three books just out challenge us, once again, to confront the evils of the Holocaust: Philip Schultz’ The Wherewithall, a long poem about the Shoah set in 1968 San Francisco and 1941 Poland; Peter Matthiessen’s In Paradise a novel about a group of Buddhists who sit meditation at a selection platform; and Martin Goldsmith’s Alex’s Wake: a Voyage of  Betrayal and a Journey of Remembrance about his family’s odyssey on the SS St. Louis.  All three courageous authors wrestle the demons that continue to disturb us, whether second-generations directly and indirectly effected by The Shoah, or those of us simply citizens of the global village struggling to understand.

These books  deserve our attention. Reading at least would be a fine way to observe Holocaust Remembrance Day ( it begins at sunset April 27 and  concludes at sunset April 28). Which one will you read first?

Remembering Harvey Shapiro

Harvey Shapiro

Word reached us that poet Harvey Shapiro died on January 7, 2013.  Harvey, a longtime and loyal customer of the bookshop, read at Canio’s several times from his various collections including How Charlie Shavers Died and Other Poems; The Sights Along the Harbor, and the volume he edited:  Poets of World War II published by The Library of America.  Here’s one from The Sights Along the Harbor.

To Nature

Sun gilding each lance-like pine needle.

One needs to have a proper attitude of respect

as a Jew only recently out of his village in Russia

would have had when he first ventured

from the Lower East Side on to broad Fifth Avenue.

My eyes are wide. I lift my cap.

We lift our cap to Harvey, who always had a ready smile and affable way about him, who supported other poets, and who seemed to remain just a regular guy even though his many prestigious accomplishments lift him above the crowd.

Mark Doty on Best American Poetry

No one could possibly read all the poetry published in America in one year. You couldn’t find it all!  Mark Doty said recently at Canio’s.  But through a very efficient and fair process established by series editor David Lehman, Doty, this year’s guest editor of Best American Poetry 2012  read thousands of poems and selected 75, every one of which, he claimed, he loved.

He strove to create an anthology that includes poems from different regions around the country, from both large and smaller literary publications, diverse in  gender, ethnicity, and poetic styles.An exciting, engaging and sometimes challenging collection has emerged from this patient, attentive editorial effort.   Mark  presented a few of his faves to an appreciative audience. We heard wonderful poems by Alicia Ostriker,  Honor Moore, Kerrin McCadden, Richard Howard, Carol Muske- Dukes and Lucia Perillo among others.

Poetry is a report on the senses, what we see and hear, what we think, and it arrives at some emotion, Doty explained. He hopes to be swept up, compelled by a poem.  And while reading vast numbers of poems, he endeavored to keep an open mind, to ask of the poem, “where does this take me?”

The best poetry takes us to unexpected places, places at once strange, yet somehow recognizable.

Rilke Through the Storm

A string of very dark nights, post-Superstorm Sandy were lighted by a new collection of Rilke poems, Prayers of a Young Poet translated by Mark S. Burrows and just out from Paraclete Press. These are supple renderings of poems some of which we’ve never seen before in English.  Without electricity for a week, I lit the hurricane lamp and read “I love the dark hours of my being,/ for they deepen my senses…”and followed the voice of the monk traipsing through the dark forest of his soul.

A bit more than a month later, we were inundated with another wave of bleaker darkness as the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School left unspeakable grief in its wake. Poetry is not a  cure nor can it protect us from evil, but  in it we hear the human voice of anguish:  “You are the forest of contradictions./ I could rock You like a child,/ and yet Your curses reach their goal/ and wreak havoc among the people.”

It’s really too much to burden these poem-prayers with our contemporary events but through them we plumb the depths to arrive at constants.  We hear the strivings of one seeking wholeness: “This is my daily work over which/ my shadow lies like  a shell./ And even if I’m like leaves and loam,/ whenever I pray or paint/ it becomes Sunday once again, and in the valley/ I’m the voice of a praising Jerusalem.”  These earnest “prayers” of the young poet Rilke, cry out not from the mountaintop, but from deep within that dark valley, a troubling night when searching is all.

In his Afterword, Mark Burrows comments on his translations: ” My hope is that these renditions enable Rilke’s poems to gesture beyond what they say, thereby conveying a sense that is as free and dynamic in English as in the original German. When they do this, they call us to ‘widen [our] solitudes/ from one new beginning to the next’ , glimpsing with the poet what he calls ‘the radiance of a new page/ on which everything could still come to be.’

This New Year, this 2013, let it be so.

Orion at Canio’s

On the first day of autumn we celebrated the 30th anniversary of Orion magazine. This fine publication combines exceptional essays, stories and articles about our human relationship with nature. Each issue features art, photography and poetry. At our celebratory event, were heard from Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean and The View From Lazy Point. Safina is a contributor to Orion. Local environmentalists read, as did organic farmer and poet Scoot Chaskey and Megan Chaskey a musician and yoga teacher. Readers chose an essay from Orion’s anniversary publication, Thirty-Year Plan: Thirty Writers on What We Need to Build a Better Future. Responses to that question showed an impressive range of vision by a host of the magazine’s contributors.
We’re so impressed with the quality of writing and image in the magazine that we’ve committed to carrying Orion each month. The November/December issue is just out. Its striking cover image, small white bones arranged in a mandala on a black ground is dramatically prescient. Here on the mid-Atlantic coast, we’re still picking up the pieces in the wake of superstorm Sandy. Trebbe Johnson’s essay on gazing at damaged places has special resonance for us as we observe the changes to our coastline, the loss of life, damaged property. Yet, the essay and the magazine itself is hope filled. Life does continue through destruction. Poetry by Pattiann Rogers, Tony Hoagland and others, and photographs by Ami Vitale make this issue one to savor. Pick up your copy, or give one as a gift to the environmentalist on your list. Let’s see Orion through another 30 years!

How do you gift wrap a download?

When I recently heard Ray Bradbury’s comment that a Kindle smells like burning plastic (see NPR) I thought of the transience of this digital media. Ours is the age of impermanence, to say nothing of its toxicity. Some months ago we got a call from someone who sounded familiar. A frequent customer, he had found a book on the street in New York inscribed by a poet from Sag Harbor. Did we happen to know this man? Yes, we did. Vince had been a loyal customer before moving into the city. A published poet, essayist and Whitman scholar, he gave several readings, led an in-depth poetry workshop and championed John Ciardi’s seminal works. The caller had picked up Vince’s copy of Cellini’s autobiography. A note scribbled in the flyleaf indicated that Vince’s ancestors came from the same part of Italy as did the caller’s. Though he made his living as an accountant, the caller also wrote poetry. He said he felt as if he’d found a long lost family member he never knew. All this from a few notes marked in a book, and picked up by a passing stranger one afternoon. The caller had prepared a letter including several poems, some he’d written in honor of his grandfather whose passport photograph he’d copied onto the page. All this, gentle reader, to say our books are our passports into that boarder-less country, the territory of our shared human experience. They are the currency of our community.

In Memoriam Robert Long, October 15, 1954 – October 13, 2006

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LOVE POTION NO. 9

This is the most beautiful day
Of all time: 80 clear degrees,
Summer sunlight jazzing a slope of trees
Like broccoli against the so-blue sea, boats,

Tiny jewels adrift, silent on the horizon.
From my car parked in front of a church
I can watch the most beautiful boy
I have ever seen mow the lawn: he’s blond, maybe 16,

Very tan, skinny, just wearing baggy black shorts,
And all the long young muscles move
Under his warm brown skin
As he shoves the big mower around,

His kid’s angel face placid and purposeful . . .
All the way back along the fast hilly highway
Stands of evergreens and oaks soak up the sun,
The radio blares, I am happy

Thinking of the boy and the sea. Racing
The twist of roads home, the beautiful gargle
Of twin camshafts at 6,000 rpm tells me
That this is all I need: 5 p.m. melon-colored sunlight

Slanting over the silver hood. What greens
In the trees, what a rich cerulean sky, what joy
Kicking it down into third
And screaming around the curve,

Soundgarden on the radio, and the retinal image
Of the grass-mowing kid even better than Tiepolo,
Better than Brahms, reachable, ecstatic, true.
O this is the world I want without end.

— Robert Long, “Blue”
POET * FRIEND * EDITOR

 


Canio's Books is located at 290 Main Street, Sag Harbor, NY 11963. You can drop an email to info@caniosbooks.com, or even check out some of our stock online. Thanks for visiting our blog!