Saturday, July 08, 2017

A New Path: Selected Poetry of Joseph Cohen

A New Path
Selected Poetry of
Joseph Cohen
Ibbetson St. Press
Somerville, MA
Copyright © 2017 by Joseph A. Cohen
82 pages, softbound, $12

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

There are three things you should know about Joe Cohen before you start reading his second book of poetry A New Path, published by one of the leading small press publishers, Ibbetson St. Press.

First, Joe is 100 years-old!  Second he served in the U.S. armed forces during WWII, and third he is a Jew who was born in Syria before all Jews were forced out.

As Susan Astor writes in her introduction to this volume of poetry, “Joe fights evil and pain, loss and grief, in the way he knows best: by involving himself with beauty, both by admiring it and creating it.”

Thus we get to his poetry.  Leah Giles worked with Joe for a year and a half to bring his work to fruition. She writes, “The book is a wonderful mix of poems … from childhood to retirement.”

Joe Cohen writes in an easily accessible style.  There is little that is fancy or ornate .  He is direct and nostalgic,  as evidenced in: “We” --

I am of medium height, you are short.
I bellow, you speak softly.
I awake with gusto, you reel from sleep.
I stride with no restraint, you step gracefully.
My family is large, yours is tiny.
I barbecue pompously with a flourish,
you cook masterfully and
season food like a French chef.
You remember birthdays, I mutter, “again?”
You prefer a fastidious house, I could live in chaos. But we both know
that opposites sometimes attract.

Unlike many of the poets of World War II who related the horrors of war like Lucien Stryk-- ( He could not help having nightmares about Hiroshima) or poets who saw the German death camps, Cohen saw love. In  his poems “Larry The Lover” or “Love Story,” both about American soldiers falling in love during the European campaign

In the title poem Cohen acknowledges that his youth is gone and how aging can be a new path to creativity and exploration.

A New Path

Loss of youth
need not be so tragic.
The pace of life’s pleasures can slow down
gracefully and gently.

The tempo need not be as lively as it was
to continue to yield satisfaction, joy, fulfillment.
Love of music, art, fine literature,
the visual creations does not
demand muscles or speed.

Though slashing forehand drives in tennis
are a dream from the past,
other advantages warm the color of today.
New wisdom drawn from living longer
enriches the ability to deal with people
and problems of aging.

The music of Brahms is just as fulfilling.
Mona Lisa’s mysterious expression
remains as intriguing as it did
                                                        when we were young.                                     

To grow anew with freshness is
to respond to new challenges.
It is time to awaken latent talents
and move to enrich the quality of life.

How many letters to write, notes to read,
books to dig into?
How many hobbies to develop
that have waited for years?

Though we are no longer vigorous and powerful,
it is time to stop the moaning,
to cease the whining, to go forth
to drink in the pleasures of creativity and exploration.

Joe Cohen has led a full life, but if you ask him he will tell you-- it is not  finished.  The man has been published in a number of publications; he has taught photography in New York colleges and the BOLLI program at Brandeis University. He was recently awarded the Legion of Honor medal by the President of the French Republic for his service in France during World War II.

Joe Cohen’s books A New Path is indeed worth reading and there are not many poets who have published their poetry at the age of 100, thus making this an even more worthwhile book to own and read more than once.
Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, Fire Tongue and Love Poems From Hell
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review

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