Saturday, November 17, 2007
Ibbetson Street Press, Somerville, Mass.
Poet Richard Wilhelm's new poetry collection: AWAKENINGS will be released by the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, Mass. Nov. 31, 2007. Wilhelm, the arts/editor for "Ibbetson Street..." has penned his first collection of verse. A long-time Somerville resident, Wilhelm has been published in both online and print journals, and has had his own art work exhibited at galleries in Somerville, Boston and Cambridge. Wilhelm said of his new book: " I've been hanging out with these poems for a long time and so I figured they needed to see the light of day." To purchase
a copy write send $15. Ibbetson Street Press 25 School St. Somerville, Mass. 02143
Below is an introduction from Cambridge poet and author of the poetry collection "Catch the Light" ( Higganum Hill) Douglas Worth.
In Richard Wilhelm’s powerful free-verse, sonorous, image-tapestried first collection, the mature poet takes us through a remarkable series of awakenings, most of them to profound interconnections between himself and primordial riches of the natural world—half-buried treasures that glimmer with mystery, ecstasy, and the divine, and that contemporary humans have to a great extent lost touch with in their techno-industrial materialistic lives.
Many of the poems involve the poet out walking in nature, feeling deep yearnings for
something I will try
my whole life to get back to,
something dreamt of in the moist night
something risen from salt water and earth,
a language I spoke
before my grandparents were born.
(“Self-Portrait with Moon”)
As these poems move through the seasons of the year, Wilhelm feels deep resonance with pre-Christian nature worship, as in these three titles: “Imbolc” (an ancient Irish celebration of the first signs of spring in early February); “Walpurgis Nacht” (the night before the beginning of May when witches gathered to revel at Brocken Peak in the Harz mountains of Germany); and “Samhain” (a festival of the ancient Celts, held around November 1st to celebrate the beginning of winter).
In one of the collection’s most powerful poems, “The Night of the Blood Red Moon,” the poet loses track of the trodden path he is on soon after he perceives the birth of “a blood red moon,” which appears to be dripping blood into the tidal flat that “seemed a great chalice.” Wilhelm feels such a strong connection to the scene that he says he wouldn’t be surprised to find himself making passionate love to the earth; and he feels an “unsummoned muscle memory” in his arms and shoulders that takes him back (through some collective unconscious ) to a time when he was “an excellent archer,” recalling
how it felt to draw back a bow,
release an arrow and the pause
of the breath at the grace of its arc
to a clean, swift, silent descent to its mark.
It is only when he finds the path again that the moon, turning from red to orange
soon faded to yellow,
and finally shrank
to a silver coin.
--a stunning concluding metaphor for how we have reduced the vast spiritual/sensual/visceral bounties of nature to a small, insensate, materialistic token.
There is an accumulating weight of feeling, in this extraordinary sequence of poems, of what has been lost to us beneficiaries of modern civilization and so-called progress. In “Samhain,” Wilhelm describes
the witchy fingers of gnarled pines claw
the clotted sky. Landforms are now
unadorned as crones, each tree
becomes more itself. Hints of divinity
disembodied no longer, gathering power
from the bowels of the earth, power
from the diamond air. O for too long
we’ve carried these absences!
In poem after poem Wilhelm plunges into nature, seeking to regain something of what feels “unrecovered” (“Something Unrecovered”), to begin to refill such absences with a sensuous, ecstatic, sacred, healing energy that binds humans and the natural world despite its submergence into latency in recent ages. One of his most lyrical and beautiful poems gives us a visionary glimpse into what early human existence may have been like as an integral part of nature, before the age of bronze and male aggressiveness devolved us to a state where
…gold is everywhere
being turned into lead
The stock market is up
but the water tastes strange.
Here, in its entirety, is his “We’ll Grow New Faces”:
If the dream comes again—
if once more the dream comes,
we’ll sit at tables, sipping tea,
recall the taste of blue oranges.
We’ll burn incense and remember
how the red horses ran
wild in the yellow valley.
We’ll lie in soft grass,
among dandelions and buttercups.
Warm breezes will finger our hair
If the dream comes again—
sweet May will scent the air
and we will leap about
in mountain meadows
and dance and shout each
other’s names, even
grow new faces
if the dream
Having drawn us through so many images that speak to our seemingly-lost, but still-vibrant connections to nature, and the narrow regards and deficits of much of current civilized existence, Wilhelm is still searching and exploring in the collection’s final poem, still trying
all the doorknobs in the hallway
seeking yet another rebirth.
No doubt his masterful AWAKENINGS will inspire many readers to join Richard Wilhelm (and branch off on their own!) in his ongoing quest for some new/old/fresh original way of being harmoniously in our endangered natural environment, moving in awe, wonder and celebration to (as he concludes in “Ciborium”):
a rhythm that could bring back the sun.
Douglas Worth was born in 1940 and grew up in Pennsylvania, Florida, and India. He has been writing poetry since the seventh grade, attempting for half a century to express his sense of the miraculousness of existence and the rich weave of human joy and suffering, his growing concern with modern humanity's disrespect for Nature, and his deepening conviction of universal interconnectedness. He taught English at public and private schools in Manhattan and Newton, Massachusetts, from 1965 to 1990, after which he retired to devote himself to writing and playing jazz alto sax. Worth lives with his artist wife Patricia and their half-wild cat in Cambridge, Mass. Douglas Worth's poetry has been published widely in periodicals and anthologies; he has received a number of fellowships, grants and prizes; and he has been profiled in Who's Who in America, Contemporary Authors, and The International Who's Who of Poetry. In addition to his volumes of poetry, Worth is the author of a young-adult novella and an illustrated children's book. His published works are:
Of Earth, William L. Bauhan, 1974
Invisibilities, Apple-wood Press, 1977
Triptych, Apple-wood Press, 1979
From Dream, From Circumstance, Apple-wood Books, 1984
Once Around Bullough's Pond, William L. Bauhan, 1987
Some Sense of Transcendence, William L. Bauhan, 1999
Echoes in Hemlock Gorge, Higganum Hill Books, 2003
Deerfoot's Mile, Creative Arts Book Company, 2003
Grumpy the Christmas Cat, MightyBook, 2003
Catch the Light, Higganum Hill Books, 2004
"Almost all of Worth's poems contain some fresh act of the imagination." -- Richard Wilbur
"Douglas Worth strikes me as one of the most gifted and accomplished of younger poets." -- Denise Levertov
"Mr. Worth is working the hardwood loads." -- A.R. Ammons