Monday, June 29, 2009
Review of SEASON OF MANGOS by Clarence Wolfshohl
Review of SEASON OF MANGOS by Clarence Wolfshohl (Adastra Press, limited edition, Easthampton, MA 2009)
By Barbara Bialick
SEASON OF MANGOS by Clarence Wolfshohl is a handsome, hand-set, hand-sewn little book limited to 220 copies of his 12 evocative poems about Belem, Brazil, at the mouth of the Amazon River.
A professor and author from Fulton, Missouri, Wolfshohl edited and was letterpress printer of Timberline Press for 30 years. These poems are written from the point of view of a tourist to an alluring city of mango trees where one must “watch out” for the ripe, fertile mangos that are falling “on the hoods of idling cars./On the dreams of sleeping dogs on the sidewalk…”
To the American poet, these mangos are like baseballs: In “High Fly Mango” he writes: “It was like catching the white blur/off the bat two beats before the crack…I flip the yellow orb in my hand/to feel its seams, to judge its heft,/and look up into the evergreen mango’s/finger-waving leaves like fans cheering/ the play.”
In “Heap of Mangos”, he paints a picture: “greens, yellows, and reds heaped/on this stand are slivers of the dresses and shirts/of the vendors behind the tables. Slivers/of the carimbo jouncing from the speakers that make you dance at noon. Slivers/of the paint on the popopos putting across the bay/to fill these booths, the boats stacked like burros/with their cargo of color, of fragrance, of ripeness/heaped on the Ver-O-Peso.”
Wolfshohl also pays homage to Brazilian beer and ice cream. He captures what’s special about the city in snapshots such as a prison turned jewelry museum and in the sight of “thousands of parakeets/(that) double the foliage/on this amazon tree.”, an “Easy Rider” he calls “Captain Brazil”, and the mysterious looks of a woman, a “yara” (siren) who turns out to be a university student.
Fortunately, he has notes at the end that help with some of the Portuguese words and traditions. But this mango-y introduction to the area also made me want to look up pictures on the internet. And it led me to speculate on the symbolism and imagery he interjected into the poems, as you would expect from a professor-poet. This book would make a fine gift to an arm-chair traveler/poet, or to one who has been to or wishes to travel to Brazil.