Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Sam Cornish First Boston Poet Laureate Passes at 82

White Storm by Gary Metras


White Storm
Gary Metras
Presa Press
Rockford, IL
Copyright © 2018 Gary Metras
ISBN: 978-0-9965026-9-6
81 pages, softbound, $15.95

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Gary Metras is best known as editor, publisher and printer of Adastra Press.  He is also known as an essayist and reviewer-- certainly as a superior fly fisherman-- and as a grandfather. But he is, perhaps, best known as an award-winning poet and the Poet Laureate of Northampton, MA.

Metras’s most recent poetry collection is White Storm, which covers the full range of his multi-faceted poetic talent--  this includes a number of titles such as “Robert Frost’s Chair,” “Pausing With Tchaikovsky,” “Listening to the Poet Laureate on NPR” as well as poems on “The Anecdote of the Chihuahuas,” “Chicken Fingers,” “A Hiker” and many more.

In “Torino” one would think the title refers to Ford’s former automobile which Clint Eastwood drives in his movie “Gran Torino.” But no, the poem takes place in Italy and may or may not explain religious history and legend.

This far north we see no Roman ruins
but downtown is torn up. Piles
of fractured asphalt and cement, trucks
queuing, men shouting, steel beams
awaiting use. In the distance, blue alps.
In a few years this city will shine
with Olympians and the crowds will not
know the dust and rubble we walk
to find the small church with the Shroud
of Jesus, where a handful of worshipers kneel
in pews. Tourists flash their cameras. We see
in the worn cloth the shape of a man,
face and arms, legs and buttock, his life
leaked onto this sheet. Is this our God,
mere stains on cloth like a rumor of joy?
The guide says this is only a copy, then points
to where the real Shroud rests behind
bulletproof glass, sealed in a metal box,
a treasure for the ages. She says
science disproves the cloth’s age, but
people believe, free to think as they will.

Metras’s “The World in Reflection” presents a pessimistic view of what could be, instead of what could be seen another way--  happy, and joyful.

The dirty clouds flare yellow and orange
with city bouncing over the black
mountain into our quiet valley.
If this was somewhere else in the ord,
think fire and murder ruling over there,
that, amid such destruction and death,
no one making love, no one
snoring sleep’s sweet oblivion,
that people couldn’t be laughing in parties,
that there were no parties,
not one single thing to celebrate,
and none were driving home after dancing
in clubs, music still hot in their blood,
the night’s light aglow in their eyes.

In Derry, NH Metras was fascinated by Robert Frost’s chair and pictured in his mind what the great poet did or did not do on this piece of furniture. It is on the road of the mind that Metras traveled with Frost’s chair, a poem similar in style to the work of Billy Collins.

Robert Frost’s Chair

He would rest his elbows and the writing desk he made
on the flat maple-wood arms
of the chair a few feet
from the living room stove.
He sank into the gold and green
flowery cushion, like sitting
in a meadow in August
as goldenrod bloom.
From the impression he left
in the seat, you can tell
he chose the way less traveled and journeyed
miles and miles in that chair.
The hay unmowed,
the wall unmended,
cows to milk at midnight,
but the notebooks fat,
leaking words all over
the sun washed carpet

Finally, there is Metras’s memorial to a woman. Probably very few know who she is, yet she is immortalized in song:

Believing in Eyes
Lucy O’Donnell Vodden 1963-2009

So there’s Lucy, dying sadly in middle age.
None of her friends ever believed
there were diamonds in her eyes. But there were,
When he first saw them in the class room,
little Julian Lennon painted them as stars.
And his father wrote that song.
He believed in those eyes, those diamonds.
They were shining in my wife’s eyes
that first dance in high school.
And in my daughter’s when she first held
her daughter in the hospital.
And in my granddaughter’s eyes
that time we rolled on the floor, singing,
giggling. So let us praise all the women
who ever showed us that joy, that hope,
which men by ourselves can’t know.

There is always something enthralling about Gary Metras’s poetry. Perhaps it is the optimism within the pessimism. Perhaps vice versa. Maybe it is the accessibility to his work. Whatever it is, White Storm is readable and enjoyable, worth a place on your bookshelf.

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, The Lynching of Leo Frank and War Zones (forthcoming from Nixes Mate Books)
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 7,8 & 12