Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

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



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”


Mark Doty’s “The ART of Description” Talk

July 31, 2010

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How fortunate we are to have poet Mark Doty in our midst, and how indescribable the pleasure of hearing him speak of the writer’s craft, the challenge and impossibility of rendering into language the exquisite sensations of human experience.  But that’s what keeps us writing, trying to get it just right.  In the end, it is the sensibility of the writer we enjoy just as much if not more than the thing described. “Description is an ART to the degree that it gives us not just the world but the inner life of the witness,” he writes. See more in The Art of Description: World into Word. Signed copies available at Canio’s.

Allen Planz, January 2, 1937 – March 29, 2010

Allen Planz at Canio’s Books’ 20th Anniversary Celebration, 2000.

POET + Fisherman + FRIEND

SOLSTICE, an excerpt

Once a child built a fortress against the tide.

In darkling sand,

Not to stop it, but to see his craft washed away,

How water touched

To bring all things it touched

To motion,

To flowing

& soon only mounds remain, & nothing within.

.                                          —  Allen Planz, from Creaturely Drift (2008)

Ten Years at Canio’s Books

What’s a bookshop with out great writers near by? Looking back over our first decade at Canio’s Books (founded in 1980 by Canio Pavone), we realize how rich we are in Sag Harbor to be surrounded by so many talented writers steadily at work in their studios.  The fruits of their many labors fill our shelves and have enriched us with many inspiring evening presentations.  Even just a short trip down Memory Lane gives a glimpse of what we’ve enjoyed over the last decade. 

Robin Morgan reading from her memoir Saturday’s Child.  In 2002, Budd Schulberg celebrating his friend John Steinbeck on the centenary of Steinbeck’s birth. Poets Star Black, Bill Knott & Eileen Myles read.  Poets Joy Harjo and  Edward Hirsch read. Photo critic Elizabeth Sussman speaks on the work of Diane Arbus. Journalist Amy Goodman draws our hugest crowd ever.  Farmer/poet  Scott Chaskey publishes This Common Ground; Tom Mathews ‘ Our Father’s War; and Robert Long’s Dekooning’s Bicycle  all published in one year!

Then there was our literary costume party at Halloween 2005. Guests included Anna Akhmatova, Colette, Dante and Simone DeBeauvoir, Edgar Allan Poe, and Femme De Plume among many others. Several ghosts writers hovered. We published our own collection Sag Harbor Is, a Literary Celebration in 2006 with Jim Monaco of Harbor Electronic Publishing. In 2007, poet Grace Schulman read along with Phil Schultz whose book Failure won a Pulitzer.  Our friend Lucette Lagnado published a brilliant memoir The Man in the White Shark Skin Suit.  More recently, poet Mark Doty read from his exquisite memoir Dog Years and  from his National Book Award winning poetry collection Fire to Fire.

2009 will probably be remembered as the year Sag Harbor finally became a novel, in the expert hands of Colson Whitehead. His reading was a tour de force and attracted a huge hometown crowd. Whew, and that’s just a brief sample of what we’ve had the pleasure to present. Looking ahead, we’re happy to announce the creation of a new non-profit Canio’s Cultural Cafe’ an effort to continue  and expand our events series in the years to come We hope you’ll join the effort and be a part of our literary celebrations.

Fire to Fire

Mark Doty’s Poetry Reading, May 2, 2009

Mark Doty reading

Answering Questions

Mark Doty speaking


Mark Doty signing


Mark Doty - Paul, Maryann after May 09 reading

After the Reading

What is a book?

A book is not a flower press.
A book is not a coaster.
A book is not a foot stool.
Nor a flotation device. Although sometimes.
A book is not a hat in the rain.
That’s what newspapers are for, if you can find one.
A book is not an electronic object.
A book is not your best friend.
Though you may sleep with a book, do not write on its skin.
Take your book to lunch, but do not share your spaghetti with a book.
Do not banish a book to the basement,
Nor hide onein an attic. Read a book  in broad daylight.
Take one to the beach, but not for a swim.

Remember your first book? A love like no other.

Lucky Solstice

You could say the luck began back around Thanksgiving time. Mark Doty had been announced the winner of the National Book Award for his poetry collection Fire to Fire. We’d already scheduled a reading from his memoir Dog Years. How fortuitous now that our audience could congratulate him on this great honor. When the poet read from his memoir, he read each word with the breath and sound of poetry.   Just now an old golden lab and a young man are walking through the light snowfall on upper Main Street, Sag Harbor.  A sign of Beau, perhaps? or just another daily ritual of caring this dark afternoon?  Mark spent time with each question from the audience, answered each generously, encouragingly, the poet teacher sharing his gifts. Here, he seemed to say, you try…

Some weeks later, storyteller and novelist Gioia Timpanelli lit the candles for Santa Lucia on her feast day, December 13.  The patron saint of Siracusa offered her eyes to the world. “Here,” she might have said, “take them, and see.”  Gioia’s new novel What Makes a Child Lucky takes place in Sicily, in a time of great hunger, or as the introduction suggests: “anyplace at anytime.”  Gioia spun out the story as we sat rapt in its charms.  Lucky us, we were able to make an audio recording thanks again to Tony Ernst at WPKN independent radio.  Check the link for this and other special programs:

Books bring light to our lives. .. Bright Solstice to all!

Canio’s Books is located at 290 Main Street, Sag Harbor, NY 11963, 631.725.4926. Call or email us, While we love you to SEE you, you can also order new titles at our online storefront or some of our second hand inventory HERE. Thanks for visiting!