My review of Maryann Corbett’s In Code appears in The University Bookman, October 25, 2020.
Fourteen years ago I edited, typeset and designed the first Powow River Anthology, released by Ocean Publishing with an introduction by X. J. Kennedy. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then! Paulette Turco, one of our newest members, took up the challenge of editing a second anthology, enlisting the aid of Rhina Espaillat, Jean Kreiling and myself, but shouldering the greater part of the workload herself. She and Alex Pepple of Able Muse Press teamed up to issue an exquisitely designed and edited showcase of the immense poetic talent that has been gathering once a month in the town of Newburyport to share poems and lively discussion of the art and craft of poetry.
Place your order here: https://preview.mailerlite.com/g6s8s8/1513520248504977672/m1e7/
Rhina P. Espaillat is the perfect person to talk about an earlier “trailblazing woman,” Emily Dickinson, in this delightful program from PBS television.
I first met Syd when I took his creative writing class at Dartmouth College. He was my professor, though he did everything in his power to level that hierarchical relationship. Though he was not drinking himself, he’d bring a big jug of wine and set it down in the middle of the table where we would-be poets sat. He told us right up front, in our first class, that we’d learn more from one another than we would ever learn from him. Basically, his role would be to welcome us into a conversation with other writers and trust that our common interests would lead us… somewhere.
I don’t mean to imply that he was abdicating his responsibilities. I think he was showing us the truest thing he knew about poetry and about “Literature” in general: that it’s all one big conversation, a conversation that goes on for centuries, and when you pick up your pen and try to say something from the heart, you’re joining that conversation, trying to make your voice heard. But you’d better be saying something from the heart, or no one’s going to listen.
Thought, no matter how lofty, seems duller than lead,
Without heart to match, just as faith without works is dead.
Here is a video of Syd talking about his most recent collection of poetry, Here.
On the Opinion page of Worcester Magazine appears a poem in which two of my friends —both terrific poets—have had a hand. Juan Matos wrote “Boot on the Throat” in Spanish; Rhina Espaillat translated it into English. I only wish you could hear Juan read the original; no one delivers a poem with greater passion.
In 2010 Paul Mariani gently “outed” Commissioner of Social Security Michael Astrue, who had served in senior roles for four presidents, as the poet writing as “A. M. Juster.” That year Astrue won the Alzheimer’s Association’s Humanitarian of the Year Award to go with awards from many health care and disability organizations. A poet with a background very unlike that of most contemporary poets, Juster talks about auspicious and inauspicious trends in contemporary poetry and his own approach to the craft of writing and translating verse.
I keep a file labeled “100 Books,” which is a list of the best books I’ve read in my life. There aren’t really a hundred books on it yet. One of the books on my list exists only in manuscript: I had the extreme good fortune of reading a GBC-bound photocopy of that work. It is a translation of the poems of Jorge Luis Borges by the poets Robert Mezey and Dick Barnes, for which they never received permission to publish.
In 2017, Bob Mezey agreed to read at the Newburyport Literary Festival. In his correspondence he was fretful about his travel arrangements, about the sound system, about the amount of time he’d be given to read. And when he arrived, he appeared old and frail. My wife Gina attentively helped him get back and forth from his room at the inn to his reading. I’d arranged for Mezey to be the final reader, pairing him with Robert Shaw, saving the best for last. When it was Mezey’s turn, he asked for the microphone to be shut off, which didn’t seem like a good idea. Then he brought the audience in closer, where they gathered in a semi-circle near the podium, and he began his reading. It was something to see, something to hear: the authority returned to his voice, he read with great expression and a sense of humor. We saw laughter in his eyes, we heard more than personal sorrow in the words he spoke. He did me the great favor of reading his wonderful narrative poem, “The Golem,” which I’d requested. It was an unforgettable reading.
Robert Mezey died of pneumonia on Saturday, April 25. America has lost one of its finest poets.
Here is a link to his obituary in The Los Angeles Times, written by Dana Gioia.
Haiku is not taken as seriously in America as it is in the Asian countries, but a number of our finest authors and poets have tried their hands at it, including Richard Wright, Richard Wilbur and Rhina Espaillat. Ann McCrae does it as well as anyone. She talks about her art in this entertaining and instructive video.
I’m happy for my friend Juan Matos! What a superb choice as poet laureate of Worcester, or of Anyplace-At-All! He’s not only an excellent poet —Rhina Espaillat, who should know, considers him one of the very best poets writing Spanish in the United States— but a dear, sweet man, with great reserves of dignity in him. To hear him read make me think of the famous Caedmon recordings of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
In this article printed in Worcester Magazine, he and Amina Mohammed talk about their reactions to being selected as Worcester’s poet laureate and youth poet laureate, respectively. I found what each of them had to say profoundly moving. Congratulations and every blessing to them both!