Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Blue Hour of the Day:Selected Poems by Lorna Crozier

The Blue Hour of the Day
Selected Poems
by Lorna Crozier
McClelland & Stewart
Toronto, Canada
Copyright © 2007 by Lorna Crozier
ISBN: 978-0-7710-2468-9
Softbound, 251 pages, US $17.95

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Every once in a while I get lucky, like recently in Vancouver where unable to find a small independent bookstore I settled on a Chapters, a national chain in Canada. On the second floor of this attractive and bright light store there was an information person scurrying about so I stopped her in the History section and asked about local poets. She took me to the Poetry section and handed me five or six books. After perusing them I chose Lorna Crozier’s The Blue Hour of the Day, Selected Poems. The woman who had helped me seemed very pleased, “You know, in my opinion, you have picked Canada’s best poet,” she said. She may well be right, even if I am unfamiliar with many Canadian poets.

Crozier has published fourteen books of poetry and in Selected Poems nine of those volumes are represented. They showcase a poet of immense talent with a keen eye for familial relations, love and grief, coupled with humor every reader will relish. There are also very sexy poems, which women seem to make more engaging, enough so to tingle flesh.

Of the some 140 poems in the selection, there are so many that I like I will mention only two or three in this review, though each poem in from The Sex Lives of Vegetables is a gem of observation and humor.

Crozier also writes of the pain of relationships as in “A Man And A Woman” where the prairie is marriage, drought their lives together and rain...

Wind blows from the west.
In a double bed a man and woman
lie side by side, pretending sleep.
Breathe in, breathe out.
When he feels me move, he rolls over,
turns his face to the wall.
Why don’t I tell him it’s okay?
I know he’s awake, I can’t
touch him, can’t speak.
My hand would have to separate
from my body to reach for him.
A country lies between us, a prairie
winter; years and years of drought.
When did it begin?
Wind blows from the west.
Surely even in this dusty room,
this marriage bed,
the small rain down will rain.

Here the frustration, years of boredom and the feeling of being trapped are vented, yet there is always hope.

Crozier also has opening lines that make a reader want to read on. In “Nothing Missing”
four lines engage instantly: Mother and I wait for my father/who has gone into the labyrinth of rooms/where life and death dance like angels/ on the tip of the doctor’s tongue.

There is “Without Hands” which the poet dedicates to the memory of Victor Jara whom she notes was a Chilean musician whose hands were smashed by the military to stop him from playing his guitar and singing for his fellow prisoners in the Santiago stadium [where he and others died in 1973]: All the machines in the world/stop. The textile machines, the paper machines,/the machines in the mines turning stone to fire./Without hands to touch them, spoons, forks and knives/forget their names and uses, the baby is not bathed,...

Oh yes, I love this book for all the wonderful poems Lorna Crozier has written over the years, for the honesty and images that have inspired poets and will continue to do so for future generations of poets. Highly recommended.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"What an Old Man Sees Sitting Down, A Young Man Cannot See Standing Up" (IBO Proverb)

"What an Old Man Sees Sitting Down, A Young Man Cannot See Standing Up" (IBO Proverb)

By Doug Holder

Somerville resident, Wellesley professor , and Poet Ifeanyi Menkiti celebrated his 70th birthday on Aug 28, 2010. It was a surprise birthday hosted by his family. It started at the Dilboy VFW Hall in Davis Square, and ended with a feast and celebration at his home on Malverne St. just outside Davis Square. Menkiti is a celebrated philosopher as well as poet, and is the owner and some say savior of the famed Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Originally from Nigeria, Menkiti has taught Philosophy at Wellesley College for many years, and has published numerous collections of poetry, as well as being a loyal friend to poets and writers.

As evidenced by the crowd at the VFW Hall, Menkiti has touched the lives of a wide cross-section of people. There were fellow Nigerians in long, colorful and flowing African robes, as well as staid academics clad in boat shoes and chinos.

There were two featured readers at the festival that was hosted by Menkiti's son Bo. One was the noted poet and translator David Ferry,( Who will be a reader at The Somerville News Writers Festival) and Tomas O'Leary poet, and beloved Bagel Bard. Ferry read some excellent translations of Horace, and O'Leary charmed us with his witty yet profound poems and songs. O'Leary who defected to the Republic of Cambridge years ago, was born and bred in Somerville and was evidently in his element. As always O'Leary had a generous dose of the Irish charm and blarney with everything he read.

Menkiti's children, Nneka, Ndidi, and Enuma, as well as Carol his wife spoke of the man's sense of dignity, his commitment to education, community and his embrace of the cultures of the world. There was also a presentation of an honorary driver's license, a gift from Frances Tingle, the mother of Jimmy Tingle. It seems that Menkiti still does not drive at this ripe age, and takes a bus to work daily.

There were also presentations of Nigerian dance, songs in the native language of IBO and reading from the Nigerian poet Chinnua Achebe. The family put together a multi-media presentation of Menkiti's life that traced his beginnings in Nigeria to the prestigious trappings of his longtime academic appointment.

After there was a dinner and celebration in a large yard outside the Menkiti home on Malverne Street. Here Menkiti greeted many guests, family, friends and neighbors-- a long and varied lineage that has marked this man's rich life.

In many regards attending this celebration was like attending a big reunion for the poetry community. I ran into the poet and novelist Collen Houlihan, Tapestry of Voices founder Harris Gardner, noted poet Kathleen Spivack, President of the New England Poetry Club Diana Der-Hovanessian, novelist and W.B. Mason Creative Director Paul Steven Stone and his wife Amy, performance poet Michael Mack, Grolier Poetry Book Shop staff member and poet Elizabeth Doran and many others.

Menkiti has lived in Somerville, Mass. for many years, and I am glad to count him as a friend. He is one of the major players who has helped Somerville, Mass. become "The Paris of New England."

Lyrical Somerville with Doug Holder in The Somerville News

The Lyrical Somerville is a weekly column in The Somerville News--here is this week's issue.


Cynthia Staples is a Somerville-based writer and photographer. It may have been coincidence, but moving to Somerville a few years ago lit a creative fire that she hopes will burn a long time. Her writing can be found online and in print publications including African Voices, Creativity Portal, Dead Mule, the Seattle Times and Terrain.org. She’s appreciated the opportunities to share her photography at the Nave Gallery and through Somerville Open Studios. You can follow both her words and images at http://www.wordsandimagesbycynthia.wordpress.com/.

The Absence of Color

Does sadness have a color?
Muted blue perhaps tinged with gray,
White with ash layered throughout like Morbier cheese?
Not black. Black is beautiful
As is gold, brown and green. They indicate life.
Sadness equals absence
Of light and color and warmth.
Arctic white then, yes,
That’s the color of sadness.

To have your work considered for the Lyrical send it to:
Doug Holder, 25 School St.; Somerville, MA 02143.