Monday, September 16, 2019

Fever by Irene Mitchell

Fever by Irene Mitchell*
                        Dos Madres, 2019


The temperature in Irene Mitchell’s stunning new collection of poems, Fever, holds steady throughout at about 101.5°. give or take an occasional cooling breeze. Mitchell’s excitingly named book makes several mentions of the word in poems throughout the slender three-part collection. With a title like Fever, one might expect some aroused panting, a bent toward hot sensationalism, warm corpses, a very sick sickness, insanity. 

That is not what she has in store for us.

A reader could easily miss a “fever” or two on a first perusal; there are many mentions. But that is not a sign of carelessness, or careless repetition.  Mitchell’s subtle placements of the title word (and overarching theme) are reminders that everything is already before our eyes, if only, as Dickinson wrote, “gentlemen can see.”  The dangers of fevers are at our fingertips, in our pulses.

Pernicious Ease” is the first of the book’s three sections.  One may flinch at the imagined evil possibilities of such a banner — say, the self-indulgent ennui of the unhappy gods in Milton’s Pandemonium, or the ease with which any of us can nurture harm.  Never in a hurry, though, Mitchell lays it on slow; no need to plummet for nine days and nights into a burning lake.  Her poems float like falling leaves or swoop like birds from nectar to nectar. She sidles her way in, and it is easy to go with her, even if you lose your way.  In “Salt and Burn,” for instance, we may not know what’s happened when

She dipped her brush in ochre and painted each flower’s
center as a wound.

But we feel it in our bodies when the next line knocks us sideways:

Then came the earth’s full wobble.

What wobble? It must be a big one! We grope blindly for an answer. Yet we don’t really need one; we believe it; we feel it in our legs. Thus we remain with Mitchell’s speaker, her imagery, perhaps beneath some maple boughs where,

Like the spikes and ebbs of fever
Flushed peonies are cooling.

There are no road bumps or tangles in Mitchell’s writing: it is never fussy, vapid , pedantic, or tediously promoting a cause. She is delicately (and wisely) witty, plain in her loves, always skillful. And there are surprises, even bursts of humor. “Hey, these coals are heavy!” erupts a man at the end of a meandering, endearingly neurotic poem titled “Joe, carrying coals.”  While her subjects are not without weight, she doesn’t shout them.  In this case Joe gets to shout, ending the poem abruptly. A joy. In other pieces, distant bells ring in mood or an image flashes bright.

Here and there, Mitchell engages in repartee with imagined artists or figures, or with her own notions of what the heck is going on in this life. In a brief poem “Night Over Blue Mountain,” from the section, “Therapeutic Harmony,” she writes that  there “is no fascination in darkness except in trolling for a gleam.”  Someone has been playing close attention.

Further on a small perfect poem, “Status,” is told by a watchful but playful speaker:

According to my shadow,
the prognosis is rosy.

With savvy survival techniques
I shall be transformed
from a fragile parenthesis
to a circle’s
plump perfection.

It is not uncommon for Mitchell’s poems to end in satisfaction.  There may be no place this poet can’t reach with her effortless language, her open mind (looking, listening, imagining, knowing), with her trust in how her words sound—the music her poems make, their modesty, their mischief, their centered and multiple meanings.  Visionary, crafted, awake, delicious, Fever is not to be missed.

*Mitchell is a former poetry editor of the Hudson River Art Magazine

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Eating Raw Meat by g emil reutter, reviewed by Gregory J. Wolos


                           Eating Raw Meat by g emil reutter,
                               reviewed by Gregory J. Wolos

            Reading g emil reutter’s new collection of poems Eating Raw Meat and other nuances of life is like entering a series of museum galleries full of life: character portraits abound, as do scenes of communal activity captured on a grander scale. Beware the final gallery, however, as Part II of this volume represents a descent into despair.

            reutter guides us through his museum, and as we pause to appreciate each poem, he explains his relationship to his work, as he informs us in “Silhouette”: “So I look at these captured memories of time and place, enjoy them without a care for what happens when I am gone.” Among these “captured memories” are portraits of individuals—character sketches—not necessarily flattering, but always true. In “Raw,” which lends its name to the title of the book, the poet depicts human frailty, fallibility, and, ultimately empathy in the brief anecdote of the elderly man, “just an old retired guy from the neighborhood,” who mistakenly orders the meat in his sandwich “raw” instead of “rare,” only realizing it afterward. There are other character studies which capture a moment or feeling as a painting might: “Quiet Men,” where we witness an elderly father and his elderly son smoking in a park; “The Politician” who “speaks to himself” loudly about his political opinions before returning by bus to his “darkened room of loneliness”; an elderly woman picks sandwiches from the trash at a food festival in “Good Times.” reutter neither condemns nor praises the characters he observes; rather, he reports the truth of their lives with a keen eye. He leads us to see that, like the mailman he describes in “It’s a Job,” whose name the poet doesn’t know though he watches him work every day, that these characters are “part of the fabric of life.” Those who reutter knows more intimately are also captured in his poems, as in the aptly named “Painting,” in which the poet frames his subject in a window, where “the sun gently silhouettes your body,” and “lights your green/blue eyes that stream across the room into mine.”

            In other galleries of reutter’s museum there are grand tableaus that teem with vibrant activity: scenes of city life witnessed from a park, at lakes, or in the streets. In Fox Chase II,” reutter widens his focus from a single character, situating the narrator in “the gazebo in a small park,” where he absorbs the sights, sounds, and smells of the shops on the bustling surrounding streets. The title of “A June Afternoon at Core Creek Park,” echoes Seurat’s famous pointillist painting “An Afternoon at La Grande Jatte”: reutter’s landscape depicting “the shore of Lake Luxembourg” is equally full of picnickers drawn to nature, where “In the midst of pavilions, barbeque, Frisbees, roller blades, a herd of deer prance . . .”

            reutter is hyper-aware of nature and its cycles, and his poems frequently record the tensions wrought by the changing seasons or weather. He seems particularly taken by the manifestation of the natural world within urban settings, as in “Urban Woodlands,” in which a “no name brook eases its way out of the city” along a “dirt path that snakes through trees and underbrush into a small valley.” Storms and heat oppress, and city life can be bleak and lonely, yet beauty often blooms where least expected. Many of reutter’s poems name flowers and trees, their names alone evocative, as if they are the sunflowers of Van Gogh or the water lilies of Monet: forsythia, hyacinth, tulips, easter lilies, hydrangea, azalea, rhododendron. Yet while nature as seen in natural cycles renews the poet, reutter, as he expresses in “Resting with the Moon,” feels the “tug and pull” of the moon and its “reflected light renews” him, “nothing will change. I am linear in destination, not circular.” The poet may recognize cycles, but though he is situated within their gyres, he preserves his own objectivity.

            reutter, in the first three-quarters of Eating Raw Meat, seems to draw inspiration from Whitman, whose doppelganger appears in “On the Bus with Walt” as a bearded fellow who reads to his fellow passengers from Leaves of Grass. The captive audience applauds the old man, who laughs heartily before whispering to the narrator, “There isn’t any money in poetry, my friend.” Poetry may not pay, but up to this point in his volume, reutter has shown the act of observation to be a noble enterprise that celebrates our shared human experience, reassuring us that there is beauty even in the contemplation of our losses, loneliness and poverty.

            The final poem of the volume’s first section, however, suggests that reutter is turning away from observation and celebration and investing the role of poet with a different kind of responsibility. The narrator of “On the Rubble” is no longer merely an observer—he is a harbinger of despair, declaring, “I stand on the rubble that is left of the American dream, pick up a brick, look at the glass ceiling, throw it, and watch it bounce off.” As the reader enters Part II of Eating Raw Meat, the museum of observations is left behind, and we seem to fall into a nearly post-apocalyptic world. Whereas the poems of Part I depict a kind of hard won beauty found in our human struggles, those of Part II portray defeat and desolation. The cycles of nature may still predominate, as in “Season to Season,” but it is the “harshness in the beauty of death and renewal” that is memorialized. reutter now directs our attention to desolation, and there seems very little to celebrate. Generalized social criticism replaces observation, as in “In Plain View,” where the narrator decries “a life lost in greed” in America and asserts that we suffer from “a divide as simple as the intersection of a crumbling alley and an avenue of greed.” In “Shadows, Dreams, and Reality” the narrator concludes that our hopes for a positive future are a doomed dream, a “[r]everie of jobs coming back deluded in the reality of what is.”

            Observation in Part II of Eating Raw Meat has become political commentary, and the keen, fresh eye reutter shows in the character studies of his earlier poems is sacrificed to jeremiads like “Pennywise,” which transparently describes our current president’s “grotesque comb over” and “plastic smile,” calling him a “dancing clown” who “sits on his gold throne on his tower of babble,” and leaves us smothered in a “sewer gas of despair.” Whereas the cycles described in the earlier poems of this volume suggest that if we look closely enough, we can find beauty entwined with our suffering, there is little such beauty in Part II: no flowers, peaceful lakes, or gentle snowflakes. What we’re left with are frightening scenarios as depicted in “Machines Ply Their Trade,” where, reutter concludes, “Though no one can see, the misers are dancing,” as “[v]iolence is the way of the world,” and “it seems it will never change.”

            Is reutter declaring that our world has become so inhospitable, our plight so desperate, that hollow ranting is all that’s left to the poet? Is shouting the only volume remaining for the visionary? It may be that reutter’s goal is to shock his audience into action before it’s too late, but the last lines of the final poem in the collection, “Hullabaloo,” tell us bluntly that the time for salvation is past: “Nirvana is empty, the second coming has been cancelled.” Apparently Whitman has gotten off the bus and has left no forwarding address.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Celebration of Life in Honor of Ifeanyi A. Menkiti 1940-2019: Oct. 5th, 2019

August 24, 1940-June 16, 2019

Please Join us for a
Celebration of Life
in Honor of
Ifeanyi A. Menkiti
Saturday, October 5th
5:00 P.M.
Newton Country Day School
785 Centre Street
Newton, MA
Reception to Follow
Wheel Chair Accessible

In The Spirit of Ifeanyi, his family will continue the mission of the Grolier. We will remain open and carry forward the activities of the Bookshop. Thank you for your continued support.
Please Save the dates:
For our upcoming Fall Reading Series
Tuesday, September 17th, 2019
Subhashini Kaligotla
Philip Nikolayev
Tuesday, October. 22, 2019
7:00 P.M.
Reading for
Firsts 100 Years of
Yale Younger Poets Anthology
Jessica Fisher
Arda Collins

Saturday, November 2. 2019
Ariana Reines

Tuesday December 17, 2019
Nina Maclaughlin
Before a Common Soil
poem by Ifeanyi Menkiti 

Let this then be your understanding 
You sons and daughters of the ancient stars 
That your home reaches beyond 
The earth which is your home 
May you go forth across the land 
And with the movement of flutes 
Celebrate the blessings 
Which the gods have given you. 
May you catch the shifting of the light 
At the tip of the flute's tongue; 
And may you ask of the darkness 
That it remain with you 
Lest the light lose sight 
Of whence it came 
Yes, I have heard song 
The power of which was not of the world 
Though the singer of it was in the world; 
And I have called out to you, 
Children of an undivided earth, 
That you join your hands together 
And be of one accord before a common soil-- 
Lest the rivers cease to water the land 
Lest the voices of the singers be forever stilled. 
Yes, I have heard song 
The power of which was not of the world 
Though the singer of it was in the world. 

©Ifeanyi Menkiti

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Opening the Camp by Kenneth Lee

Opening the Camp
Kenneth Lee
ISBN 978-1-7923-0063-9
$10: available from Harvard Book Store (

Reviewed by David P. Miller

If a person has the good fortune to reach older age in decent health, more or less stable circumstances, and of sound mind – and yes, that’s a lot of ifs – it’s possible to develop a double consciousness about your life. You can look at its decades as a phenomenon, a strange occurrence not taken for granted, a curious tale about a person who happens to have your name, face, and Social Security number. This isn’t only the province of aging, of course. Back around 1980, David Byrne put it memorably in the Talking Heads song “Once in a Lifetime”: “And you may find yourself in a beautiful house / With a beautiful wife / And you may ask yourself, well /How did I get here? … You may ask yourself / Where does that highway go to? /And you may ask yourself / Am I right? Am I wrong? /And you may say to yourself / ‘My God! What have I done?’ ’’ I wonder what he would write about this now, forty years later.

Kenneth Lee’s poems often show an acute sense of amazement, sometimes bemusement, regarding the fact of his life. I find that his approach to autobiography evokes my own personal incredulity. Let’s spend time on “Memoro Ergo Sum.” The title riffs off Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum,” often translated as “I think therefore I am.” Lee substitutes memory for reasoning, suggesting that one’s identity is more deeply rooted in what one remembers. The first stanza features his characteristic specificity of description, in his treatment of the streetlight, unusual perception of the snow’s color, and its vanishing intensified by simple repetition of “disappear”:

Black snowflakes, backlit by the streetlamp,
drift across its yellow megaphone
as I stand on the corner of Palmer and Griggs
looking up at them as they disappear
and disappear into the blackness around me,
age six, late winter of forty-seven.

So far, a simple, nostalgic picture, immediately complicated in the next stanza. The snows of 1947 weren’t evoked by wintertime in later life, but by the poet’s double in an anomalous moment:

Except that it’s summer of 2017
and I, on the self-annihilating point
of the present, trolling in its wake,
have hooked a snow-filled interlude
entered that night by my recorder
standing with his notebook beside me.

Notice the density of this. The instant of recollection disappears as soon as it arises, “self-annihilating.” And yet there it is: a disappearing mental event, in a summer seventy years removed, evokes black snowflakes in street light, and the poet’s double-consciousness manages to snag it. Who is the “recorder?” The final stanza says it’s like Samuel Johnson’s constant companion and biographer:

My Boswell, with his instinct for the highlights,
to document my growing apprehension,
that life was real and I’d been placed inside it.

The “growing apprehension” is the six-year-old’s, becoming aware of his own awareness. His Boswell, by his side since childhood, made sure even then that this sensation – black snowflakes in a megaphone of streetlight – will be permanent in the memory bank, to surface who knows when, for who knows what reason.

It can be sobering, even frightening, to consider that every aspect of your present life exists only because of every specific thing that previously occurred. This means an infinitude of forking paths past. Never mind “the” road not taken: it’s more like a four-dimensional universe of disappeared paths multiplying at every instant. And so we have “What Never Happened”. It seems that his parents lost the chance to put money down on a house, and so “we grew up in River Vale, not River Edge.” Against the too-similar neighborhood names, Lee concisely imagines the shape of an alternative past, shaped by “all the kids who went to high school there”:

whom I never fell in love with, never married
to father kids who never existed with,
or become old friends I’m out of touch with.
I lived my life, grew old, and never missed them.

Of course, non-events only exist because actual events did happen. In retrospect, these seem so inevitable that one can make “The Case Against Free Will.” Here Lee casts his memory back across a varied set of happenings: a risky walk home by himself at six years, an expensive auto repair estimate, and his marriage proposal, concluding “I don’t remember choosing to be naughty, / electing to accept that estimate, / or opting to commit myself forever.” The poem “Pleasing God” unpacks his life’s stages using a different framework. Lee’s awakening into art and matters of the spirit was delayed by the command to obey a parched idea of God:

the gospel drilled in by those jack-hammer nuns
that anything painfully gained pleases God
caused me to dismiss English, Music and Art
as pleasure gods, unworthy of my worship.

As a college student, he “filled [his] empty attic” with engineering study. But the repressed returns. He fell into poetry near “the age of poor Shelley’s last birthday,” music at “the age that took Mozart away,” art at an age “approaching the one that stole Rembrandt.” He concludes with the ironic reflection that God required engineering “so I’d cram my left brain to appease Him / that my right might remain a pure virgin / until she was primed to be ravished” as he achieved the ages at which those artists disappeared. Still, his years of college cramming are given music and meter:

I analyzed the water weight of salt,
I gauged the shear and tensile strengths of steel,
the time it took glass ingots to anneal.

Lee’s capacity for close and fresh description has been noted. Although this is hardly the exclusive province of age, if sharp perception endures, experience itself may become more precious. Opening the Camp’s penultimate poem, “Shades of Gray,” is a brief, exquisite essay in re-learning to see. The speaker views a range of mountains on the morning after a rainy night, realizing that each one “represents [a] sovereign state of grayness:  / ashen, smoky, pearly, leaden, iron, / all fringed with filmy evanescent tassels,  / and here and there perceptible between, / a streak of iridescent green, a blush of blue.” It’s a cue to this reader, at least, not to let the title phrase simply rest as a cliché for relative morality.

In “Pleasing God,” Lee tells about being cracked open to the arts; ekphrastic poems bring his powers of observation into this realm. “Clash of the Great Powers,” a title hinting at the grandiose, ironically frames two concise quatrains. It approaches the puzzle of contrasting civilizations by considering two artworks. An outdoor work by the Japanese-American sculptor Noguchi, a “great grey mass of twisted stone,” allows “infinite replies to light by form” as viewers have the freedom to experience it from different angles. In stark contrast, the same viewers, in front of Titian altarpiece “set fixed above / a grand Venetian altar” are “forced to view / the same magnificence from every angle.” The narrow response compelled by an authoritarian context is reflected in its slighter description: there is simply less to say. Among other poems devoted to music and art, “Of Art, Of Craft” responds to an Eva Hesse exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. Here it is, complete:

Of wool, of rope, of wavy plastic tubes:
of simple and of sparse and yet so strong.

How are they not like a boat in a bottle
or a glued and beveled solid walnut table?

The question is doing a lot of work. It invites a close comparison of Hesse’s pioneering and controversial work, using perishable materials and labeled-feminine processes, with traditionally labeled-masculine crafts. At the same time, as Hesse’s work has been established in the realm of art, what does that suggest about other forms of making not given that status? (And kudos to Lee, in any case, for giving Eva Hesse, who died far too early at 34, a place in this book.)

There’s evidence, throughout Opening the Camp, of Lee’s sensitivity to the slightest events and simplest images as portents of far greater things. “Scavenging My Earliest Memories” provides insight into memory’s its origin in early consciousness, linking concrete images – “Brown chickens on a lawn beside a barn, / white dunes along a shore seen from a car” – and the mature reflection that, with these, “agency sought entrance to awareness.” At the stage where images first imprint and persist, the child’s sense of self as a separate being with a history takes form: “a rock-rimmed goldfish pond, / a tiny stucco house beside a well / precipitates from blankness into time.” Personal time begins with recoverable awareness. (My own sense of myself as an individual person began with self-aware fascination with gold Christmas ornaments shining in a window.) This original self-consciousness may, mysteriously, reappear in moments outside any logic, as we see in “Still Going,” the collection’s concluding poem. On a September evening in the Adirondacks (the transition to autumn pictured as summer “pulling up a Caribbean blanket”), Lee watches Orion sink below the horizon, then turns to go inside. “Then, as I straighten and turn for the door, / I’m greeted by the basic core of me.” And what is this? Not the older adult occupied with present concerns and past regrets:

No, it was the one, untouched since its inception,
by memory, anxiety, or age;
the one that first congealed when I was three
who comes unbidden intermittently,
to bring me the good news that he’s still going.

The great good fortune of Kenneth Lee’s poetry expresses the anxieties of impermanence and time (with its terminal effect on each of us), simultaneous with joy in the present and often in recollection. This balance is not given to everyone who arrives at a later stage of life. It is rediscoverable at the most ordinary of moments. A final example will be the simple, formally elegant “Smoke Break in the Courtyard,” in its entirety:

Meanwhile mid-March restokes the coming fire.
And I note that since my morning smoke
a crocus shaft has thrust its fervent bill
outside earth’s startled shell in one sharp stroke.
But, where within a crocus lies its will –
how can a gristly bulb invoke desire?

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Except for Love New England Poets Inspired by Donald Hall

Except for Love
New England Poets Inspired by Donald Hall
Edited by Cynthia Brackett-Vincent
(Encircle Publications, 2019)

Review by Lawrence Kessenich

No doubt inspired by the 2018 death of well-loved New England poet Donald Hall, this anthology pays tribute to Hall through poems about him and his beloved wife, Jane Kenyon, poems dedicated to him (or them), and poems responding to Hall’s work. At least half-a-dozen of the poems are inspired by specific poems Hall wrote, such as Scott T. Hutchinson’s “Wild Honey,” after Hall’s “Self-Portrait as a Bear”; Tricia Knoll’s “Obsessed Haiku,” after Hall’s “Distressed Haiku”; and Kyle Potvin’s “Waiting for the Results,” after Hall’s “Her Long Illness.”

Some of the poets here seem to have known Hall and Kenyon, their poems providing specific images from their life together, while others admired the poets’ work from afar. Kenyon is secondary in this anthology, of course, it being dedicated to Hall, but the two poets, married to each other for decades, were so intertwined, that it would be nearly impossible to put together a book about Hall without including something about Kenyon’s significance in his life. For example, Steven Rattner’s poem “All the Time in the World,” dedicated to “Don and Jane,” appears to be written from Hall’s point-of-view, saying things about their life together such as:

One morning we taste salvation
in a swallow of milk.
There is frost scaling the bedroom window
and we take it for heaven.

These beautiful lines give a taste of the imagistic treasures to be found in this anthology. Here are a few others.

From “Lunatics” by Sherry Barker Abaldo:

You gather me again
and again in your arms
like kindling,
our moonlit skin blue as India gods.

From “Seapoint Beach” by Mary Anker:

The last winter storm
our apple tree
in half

the wound
orange and raw
against her dark bark
points to the sky
hands in prayer…

From “Whisper” by Andrew Periale:

I want to hear the soft explosions
of humpbacks surfacing; cold, salt spray
soaking our clothes; dark men poised,
their great harpoons held high, waiting.

But there are more abstract poems as well—a place where Hall, for all of his New Hampshire country concreteness, would also sometimes venture, such as in his poem “Advent”:

When I know that the grave is empty,
Absence eviscerates me,
And I dwell in a cavernous, constant
        Horror vacui. 

Wally Swist’s “A Wild Beauty” speaks of how a scent:

nurtures us through what
are calculated avaricious
rants, vortices of disorder,
with what serves us
as an uncanny sustenance
its own inexplicable elixir.

The abstract is never far from the concrete in any of these poems, though (even Hall’s and Swist’s above begin with concrete images, an empty grave and a scent, before they delve into the abstract) so all of the poems feel grounded and vital. There is a lot about loss and decline, but even more about love, bounty, and the uplifting qualities of natural life.

In “Ancient History,” Dawn Potter’s character Baby tries to forget the loss and decline around her mother, but finds it difficult: :

Forgets her skinny fingers
            their skinny sharp nails,

her stare like a chain
            yanking him under
                   Forgets how bad she smelled.

But in “Over Breakfast” Tricia Knoll imagines Hall and Kenyon talking to each other about creativity in language peppered with uplifting natural images:

Did you hibernate last night? Is now when your nut
breaks open? Does your wild aster seed fall
on cracked silt? Your fruited branch bend
under pears?

Maybe a murmur in green waters
lapping ashore as one
or going separately. If we must.

This is a book of powerful, varied, vivid poems that don’t shrink from the darker side of life, but which, on the whole, come down on the side of love, creativity, and a deep appreciation for the beauty and richness of nature. Hall and Kenyon would both appreciate it and be proud to have their names associated with it.  

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Dennis Daly’s new book The Devil’s Artisan: Sonnets from the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, A Settler of Scores

Dennis Daly’s new book The Devil’s Artisan: Sonnets from the Autobiography of
 Benvenuto Cellini, A Settler of Scores

article by Michael Steffen

History and art are the orders of the day in the new collection of sonnets by Dennis Daly in the persona of Benvenuto Cellini, 16th-century master goldsmith and sculptor who won the praise of Michelangelo. It is à propos for the Boston area with its great traditions in the arts. Also because one of Cellini’s extremely rare coins, and not many coins survive, is housed in a glass case in gallery 209 in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Page in and page out a voice emerges and takes hold, urgent in its trochaic cadences. Yet Daly, a poet noted for his ability with forms, knowing what goes where in a line, surprises also with a seeming lack of footing, which had me wondering as I read through the book if I were reading trochees (DA-da) or anapests (da-da-DA), or whether we were in a standard pentameter, as with the fourth line of the opening sonnet:

            Some gold, some silver things that men applaud…

The same sonnet’s first line, however, skips off on an eye-opening anapest, unless we’re going to call it a trochee, which would be truer to a 5-beat line scheme:

            I confess my faults to Almighty God…

The point is these are not translations, the poems are entirely in Daly’s hands, and throughout the license taken with the measure of the lines had me both grinning, for the ingenuity of it all, and at a loss, as a reader of Renaissance poetry, wanting a regular iambic pentameter. Here is an example of an early translation John Milton did from an Italian Canzone:

In love, young men and ladies crowd and share

a laugh at me "Why write this? Why
write in a strange tongue we know not, and strain
yourself in verse of love? How do you dare? 
Speak plain, if you'd have your hopes not prove vain,
and your ambitions fall a shattered lie."
They mock me so "you've other shores to try
other streams, other waters in your reach
upon whose greening beach
now, even now, sprout leaves that never die
to wreathe your locks as laureate.
Why load your shoulders so with foreign freight?" 
I tell you, Canzon. Give them my reply: 
My lady says, and her words are my heart:
     This is the tongue love boasts of as his art. 

The Original:


Ridonsi donne e giovani amorosi
M'accostandosi attorno, e perche scrivi,
Perche tu scrivi in lingua ignota e strana
Verseggiando d'amor, e come t'osi?
Dinne, se la tua speme si mai vana,
E de pensieri lo miglior t'arrivi;
Cosi mi van burlando, altri rivi
Altri lidi t'aspettan, e altre onde
Nelle cui verdi sponde
Spuntati ad hor, ad hora la tua chioma
L'immortal guiderdon d'eterne frondi
Perche alle spalle tue soverchia soma?
Canzon dirotti, e tu per me rispondi
Dice mia Donna, e'l suo dir, è il mio cuore
Questa è lingua di cui si vanta Amore. 

We certainly can’t be asked to stand up to Milton. But here’s a  point about how Italian poetry has been translated into regular English verse. Nor does Daly omit the occasion to use archaic language for feel:

            Out in the open air at the ruins
            Of old Rome I escaped the dreadful plague.
            In ways circuitous and oddly vague
            I entered the jewel trade, eating pigeons… (page 26)

The Preface and the Biographical Sketch opening the book are worth the cover of this most handsome book issued by Dos Madres Press. Cellini’s was a highly dramatic life entailing murders, prisons, the rich patronage, society and opprobrium of popes, as well as significant time in France under the patronage of the French High Renaissance monarch Francis I, who was also a generous benefactor of Galileo.

Daly’s a master of sequence and thematic strategies as we saw in his previous books Night Walking with Nathaniel and Alisher Navoiy Twenty-One Ghazals. As Rick Mullin points out, “Daly gives us the story as he receives it personally from Cellini.” And we sense this as we read through the poems to a chilling degree. It is absolutely visionary, if difficult to score. Speaking of which, you would not wish for Benvenuto Cellini to have a score to settle with you.

It’s a paperback that could easily sit on your living room table.
Dos Madres Press, Inc
P.O. Box 294  Loveland, Ohio 45140
ISBN 978-1-948017-46-6