Thursday, February 06, 2014

reduced to joy by Mark Nepo

reduced to joy
by Mark Nepo
Viva Editions
Berkeley, California
Copyright © 2013  by Mark Nepo
153 pages, softbound, $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-936740-57-4
Vera Pavlova was born in Moscow. She graduated from the Gnessin Academy, specializing in the history of music, and is the author of fourteen collections of poetry, four opera librettos, and lyrics to two cantatas. Her works have been translated into eighteen languages
Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Some of Mark Nepo’s poems begin with what could be a riddle or a philosophical pursuit. In “Coming Out” the first four lines set you thinking, what is he saying?

While there is much to do
we are not here to do.

Under the want to problem-solve
is the need to being-solve.

“Near The Light” has a three line initial stanza:  I’m saved by what is timeless./Can taste it though it fills no cup./Can feel it though it can’t be seen.

Many of the poems, however, are personal. Nepo talks about saving his puppy from drowning, a dead friend who may have died with secrets, about nature and other topics.  The poems are mostly about him, though justifiably as he is a long term survivor of a rare form of lymphoma.  His survival has had an immense impact on his poetry, as has his forty plus year career in poetry, health and spirituality.

Yes the poems are about him, and are written by him in a way that makes you not only like him, but admire him for his survival and his bravery.  But that’s not what he wants from you or me.  I believe what he wants is for us – the readers – to learn from this book of poetry as in the poem “Behind The Thunder”

I keep looking for one more teacher,
only to find that fish learn from water
and birds learn from sky.

If you want to learn about the sea,
it helps to be at sea.
If you want to learn about compassion,
it helps to be in love.
If you want to learn about healing,
it helps to know of suffering.

The strong live in the storm
without worshipping the storm.

Wise words from a poet who has suffered, has lived in the storm and lives to tell us in some 147 pages how to be better to ourselves and others. Oh, the road is not easy, but heading in the right direction is a start.

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Street Press)
Author,  Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva Press)
Author, Fire Tongue (forthcoming, Cervena Barva Press)
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review Online Poetry Journal
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthologies 7& 8
Publisher, Muddy River Books

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