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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Crowd of Sounds by Adam Sol (House of Anansi) Once in a long while a lyric poet comes along whose technique, emotional pitch, and intellect combine in sublime balance. Adam Sol is one of those poets, and Crowd of Sounds is`his extraordinary new collection.  

Crowd of Sounds has an exhilarating range. Here it is gentle and mournful, attuned to surroundings, and suddenly over here it mounts a sneak attack and hits us with erotic joy, erotic threat, history, elegy, comic absurdity, and acts of disturbing ventriloquism—somehow threaded together with thematic coherence.

"For once our eyes are not our first concern," Sol writes, and in poem after poem he awakens our listening. He conducts for us the sounds of jays, wasps, streetcars, buskers, and lover's breath with a deft hand, finding genuine emotional resonance in each. These poems are about music but they are also about the silence it breaks, and the inevitable recurrence of that silence.  

Adam Sol was born in New York and grew up in Connecticut . His poetry has appeared in many anthologies and magazines in Canada and the US . His first book, Jonah's Promise, won Mid-List Press's First Series Award for Poetry and was published in 2000. He has a PhD in English Literature from the University of Cincinnati and teaches at Wilfred Laurier University .  

The Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology: A selection of the 2003 shortlist edited by Sharon`Thesen (House of Anansi) "Poetry, I believe, is one of the few antidotes we have to the toxicity of the plastic words of predation and management that have so colonized consciousness in our time. Poetry restores us to beauty and sanity, wildness and intelligence." — Sharon Thesen, from the preface

The Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology is an outstanding sampling of contemporary poetry, gathered in one elegant volume.

This year's anthology features exemplary poems from the 7 works nominated for the 2003 Griffin Poetry Prize. Sharon Thesen edited the anthology, and wrote the citations that introduce each poet, as well as the thoughtful preface.

The selections include poems from Kathleen Jamie's Mr and Mrs Scotland Are Dead: Poems 1980-1994, Paul Muldoon's Moy Sand and Gravel, Gerald Stern's American Sonnets: Poems, C. D. Wright's Steal Away: Selected and New Poems, Margaret Avison's Concrete and Wild Carrot, Dionne Brand's thirsty, and P. K. Page's Planet Earth: Poems Selected and New.

Royalties generated from The Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology will be donated to UNESCO's World Poetry Day, created to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression.

If I Were Writing This by Robert Creeley (New Directions) Robert Creeley, elder statesman for the Beat poets, winner of the Bollinger Prize in Poetry in 1999 and numerous other prizes too numerous to mention here, is one of America's most acclaimed, beloved and respected writers. His new If I Were Writing This, is Creeley's first major collection since the highly praised Life & Death, which came out in 1998.

The poems in this new collection have an "aching sweetness" that speak to the preciousness of life as the poet both faces his own mortality and simultaneously looks on a world suddenly more precarious and fragile. In these poems there is longing, a twinge of regret sometimes, a bit of nostalgia, the sadness of passing time, but finally no regrets and no self-pity, just an understanding that this is what it is to be human, an acknowledgment that life is uncertain but also bracing and positive.

"Given the bleak vulnerability of the world and of our own country's dogmatic commitment to violence, what can either poet or poetry do? For one thing, insist on feeling—insist on witness—insist on being here, in this 'phenomenal world,' as Lawrence called it, 'which is raging and yet apart.' Age brings experience, not wisdom; age makes time actual—each day another—until there is no more. These poems have been my company, my solace, my feelings, my heart. When they cannot speak, it will all be silence." – Creeley, on If I Were Writing This

Creeley has created a noble life body of poetry that extends the work of predecessors Pound, Williams, Zukofsky, and Olson. – Allen Ginsberg

Collected Poems by Federico Garcia Lorca, edited by Christopher Maurer, translation by Galway Kinnell et al (Farrar Straus Giroux) A revised edition of this major writer's complete poetical work. Long regarded as one of the premier Spanish modernists, Federico García Lorca's newly revised Collected Poems is a welcome contribution to this outstanding poet's prolific body of work. This bilingual edition includes many recently discovered poems and revised translations, updating the completeness of the verse produced by Lorca during his short life (he died at 38). Lorca's poetry is quirky, playful, not only filled with orange groves and olive trees, but a strange, physical world where a river has "garnet whiskers" or there exists a "recumbent sky" or "mummified ocean." Lorca wrote love poems, though we can never be sure what exactly is desired. His poetry is not abstract, but the images are sometimes a bit out of reach--if anything, he tried to give the abstract a physical presence.

And I who was walking
with the earth at my waist,
saw two snowy eagles
and a naked girl.
The one was the other
and the girl was neither.

-- from "Qasida of the Dark Doves"

Federico García Lorca was the greatest poet of twentieth-century Spain and one of the world's most influential modernist writers. Christopher Maurer, a leading Lorca scholar and editor, has substantially revised FSG's earlier edition of the collected poems of this charismatic and complicated figure, who -- as Maurer says in his illuminating Introduction -- "spoke unforgettably of all that most interests us: the otherness of nature, the demons of personal identity and artistic creation, sex, childhood, and death." Collected Poems is an important addition to any poetry collection, especially for those unfamiliar with Lorca or those who wish to read the poems in their original Spanish.

Shuntaro Tanikawa: Selected Poems by Shuntaro Tanikawa, translations by William I. Elliott and Kazuo Kawamura (Persea Books) A major selection of the work of Japan's preeminent poet. Winner of every significant award for literature in Japan, Shuntaro Tanikawa is that country's foremost living poet. Shuntaro Tanikawa: Selected Poems draws from eleven books written over forty years and is masterfully translated in close collaboration with the poet.  The versatility of his poetic output is well displayed in this adroit rendition of his work. Highly recommended for its display of the poetic ranges and many voices of this popular poet. It is the only major collection of Tanikawa's work available in English. Tanikawa writes a free verse filled with passion and curiosity. American readers will be struck by his fascination with their world and culture--Charlie Brown, John Coltrane, and Oscar Hammerstein are among those with significant cameos. He also displays a strong poetic connection to his American contemporaries, the Beat and Black Mountain poets, especially Robert Creeley and Allen Ginsberg. In Shuntaro Tanikawa: Selected Poems, readers are treated to an urbane feast of discovery, philosophy, and play.

The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans: Poems by Mary Jo Bang (University of Georgia Press) This compelling book takes its title from Samuel Beckett's Ohio Impromptu. In Beckett's play, a grieving beloved seeks relief from the haunting presence of a departed lover in a place where "From its single window he could see the downstream extremity of the Isle of Swans." With a bow to Beckett's style and linguistic playfulness, Nary Jo Bang's collection of poems deals compassionately awl gracefully with the tangible world.

Bang's savvy alliterative insistence sweeps the reader along, as her poems collectively offer a world delicately structured from memorable fragments of experience, emotion, things, awl places‑inside and outside the human psyche.

When the Weather Changes to Warm,
the Boys Drive Shirtless
Their cigarettes wasting to nought.
Bodies locked to a mirror, an eye.
An impetuous shutter. Look. Here.
At me.
The skin a pelt, a hide, a peel.
What is this theatrical vanity?

The Invention of Secrecy by David Citino (Ohio State University Press) his eleventh collection of poetry, David Citino searches near and far‑in his native Ohio, illuminated suddenly by a cosmic messenger; in Italy and Egypt, ancient and new; in Tibet; even in prehistoric and preliterary times seeking answers to the most human questions: What did we reverence in the past? What are our present obsessions? What does it mean to read one another? Must we always speak in our parents' voices?

The underlying concern of these poems is the very notion of secrecy, and in his explorations Citino investigates the lives, and credentials, of our saintsboth secular and otherworldly. Ramses the Great, the prophet Hosea, the Roman emperor Vespasian, Caravaggio, the Wicked Witch of the West, Padre Pio, Mario Lanza, and Princess Diana are among the largerthan­life personages materializing on these pages. Continually in these poems, the past is read by light of the present and the present from perspectives of the past. Accessible yet ambitious, and treating all of history as the concern of those living today, these poems seek to measure the span of our lives and the distance that separates one life from another.

San Francisco Beat: Talking with the Poets by David Meltzer (City Lights) Thirty years ago, poet David Meltzer interviewed his poet friends Rexroth, McClure, Ferlinghetti, Everson, and Welch for The San Francisco Poets. Now he has combined these classic interviews with new talks with McClure, Ferlinghetti, Lamantia, Kyger, Snyder, Hirschman, Di Prima, Micheline, Whalen, and Meltzer-along with follow-up interviews with friends of Everson and Rexroth. San Francisco Beat is an archive of the Beat M Generation and a look back by some of the survivors. Photos of then and now by Harry Redl and Larry Keenan.

Singers, Heroes, and Gods in the "Odyssey'' by Charles Segal (Cornell University Press) One of the special charms of the Odyssey, according to Charles Segal, is the way it transports readers to fascinating places. Yet despite the appeal of its narrative, the Odyssey is fully understood only when its style, design, and mythical patterns are taken into account as well. Bringing a new richness to interpretation of this epic, Segal looks closely at key forms of social and personal organization, which Odysseus encounters in his voyages. Segal also considers such topics as the relationship between bard and audience, the implications of the Odyssey's self-consciousness about its own poetics, and Homer's treatment of the nature of poetry.

The Collected Poems of  Kathleen Raine (Counterpoint) The lifework of one of the 20th century's greatest poets Since her first collection of poems published in 1943, Kathleen Raine has been writing a kind of mystical nature poetry all her own, a poetry immersed in the quiet air of solitude and imagination. Vita Sackville-West, writing in the Observer, spoke of her "curious purity": "Her poems are like drops of water, clear, self-contained, and sometimes iridescent with the elusive colors of mysticism." Collected Poems is the lifework of a visionary, a celebration of the miracles of nature and man's place among them. Now in her ninety-second year she has chosen this work from eleven published collections and from other uncollected and unpublished sources. The earliest poems were written in the mid-thirties, the latest in the late nineties.

Kathleen Raine is both poet and scholar. She is an internationally respected`critic of William Blake and W. B. Yeats and has won many literary awards including the Harriet Monroe Prize and the Edna St. Vincent Millay Prize from the American Poetry Society. She lives in London. The Inner Journey of the Poet, and Other Papers
by Kathleen Raine, photography by Brian Keeble (George Braziller) continues her autobiographical reflections.

Earth no longer
hymns the Creator,
the seven days of wonder,
the Garden is over —
all the stories are told,
the seven seals broken
all that begins
must have its ending,
our striving, desiring,
our living and dying,
for Time, the bringer
of abundant days
is Time the destroyer —
  In the Iron Age
  the Kali Yuga
  To whom can we pray
  at the end of an era
  but the Lord Shiva,
  the Liberator, the purifier?

Our forests are felled,
our mountains eroded,
the wild places
where the beautiful animals
found food and sanctuary
we have desolated,
a third of our seas,
a third of our rivers
we have polluted
and the sea-creatures dying.
Our civilization’s
blind progress
in wrong courses
through wrong choices
has brought us to nightmare
where what seems,
is, to the dreamer,
M the collective mind
of the twentieth century —
this world of wonders
not divine creation
but a big bang
of blind chance,
purposeless accident,
mother earth’s children,
their living and loving,
their delight in being
not joy but chemistry,
stimulus, reflex,
valueless, meaningless,
while to our machines
we impute intelligence,
in computers and robots
we store information
and call it knowledge,
we seek guidance
by dialling numbers,
pressing buttons,
throwing switches,
in place of family
our companions are shadows,
cast on a screen,
bodiless voices, fleshless faces,
where was the Garden
a Disney-land
of virtual reality,
in place of angels
the human imagination
is peopled with foot-ballers
film-stars, media-men,
experts, know-all
television personalities,
animated puppets
with cartoon faces —
  To whom can we pray
  for release from illusion,
  from the world-cave,
  but Time the destroyer,
  the liberator, the purifier?

The curse of Midas
has changed at a touch,
a golden handshake
earthly paradise
to lifeless matter,
where once was seed-time,
summer and winter,
food-chain, factory farming,
monocrops for supermarkets,
pesticides, weed-killers
birdless springs,
endangered species,
battery-hens, hormone injections,
artificial insemination,
implants, transplants, sterilization,
surrogate births, contraception,
cloning, genetic engineering, abortion,
and our days shall be short
in the land we have sown
with the Dragon’s teeth
where our armies arise
fully armed on our killing-fields
with land-mines and missiles,
tanks and artillery,
gas-masks and body-bags,
our air-craft rain down
fire and destruction,
our space-craft broadcast
lies and corruption,
our elected parliaments
parrot their rhetoric
of peace and democracy
while the truth we deny
returns in our dreams
of Armageddon,
the death-wish, the arms-trade,
hatred and slaughter
profitable employment
of our thriving cities,
the arms-race
to the end of the world
of our postmodern,
post-human nations,
progress to the nihil
of our spent civilization.
But cause and effect,
just and inexorable
law of the universe
no fix of science,
nor amenable god
can save from ourselves
the selves we have become —
  At the end of history
  to whom can we pray
  but to the destroyer,
  the liberator, the purifier?

In the beginning
the stars sang together
the cosmic harmony,
but Time, imperceptible
of all that has been,
all that will be,
our heart-beat your drum,
our dance of life
your dance of death
in the crematorium,
our high-rise dreams,
Valhalla, Utopia,
Xanadu, Shangri-la, world revolution
Time has taken, and soon will be gone
Cambridge, Princeton and M.I.T.,
Nalanda, Athens and Alexandria
all for the holocaust
of civilization —
  To whom shall we pray
  when our vision has faded
  but the world-destroyer,
  the liberator, the purifier?

But great is the realm
of the world-creator,
the world-sustainer
from whom we come,
in whom we move
and have our being,
about us, within us
the wonders of wisdom,
the trees and the fountains,
the stars and the mountains,
all the children of joy,
the loved and the known,
the unknowable mystery
to whom we return
through the world-destroyer, —
  Holy, holy
  at the end of the world
  the purging fire
  of the purifier, the liberator!

Kathleen Raine has published eleven volumes of poetry since 1943. She is a scholar of William Blake and W. B. Yeats. Her autobiography has been published in several volumes. She is the founder of the Temenos Academy, London, and the editor of the Temenos Review, wherein this poem will also appear.

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