Friday, May 01, 2020

Dancing at Lake Montebello: Poems by Lynne Viti

Dancing at Lake Montebello: Poems by Lynne Viti  ( Apprentice House Press)

Article by Doug Holder

This is not a review, but a reflection and impression of this new poetry collection by Lynne Viti.
The collection is titled, " Dancing at Lake Montebello." Viti, who lectured at Wellesley College for many years, (and I had the pleasure to read with at a Sam Cornish tribute reading at the New England Book Fair) has penned a collection that has much to recommend it.

I have always followed the dictum of William Carlos Williams, " No ideas but in things." And Viti has certainly learned the good doctor's lessons. Her poems are a cornucopia of images--no concept is left floating in the atmosphere, but is attached to something that is tangible--we can taste, hear, feel it--smell it.  In one poem " Charm City" the poet writes about her native city of Baltimore ( me thinks), and traces it transformation-with a gimlet eye. She writes of her youth during the 60s, and all the totems of the times,  " ...watched foreign films with subtitles, learned to roll joints... The posh steak houses grew tired and empty/ as their patrons/ died off,/ too old to travel, began to lose their teeth." I consider my self a student of gentrification, of the change, loss, and rebirth of I could appreciate this.

Viti writes evocatively about a whole range of things from the Civil Rights Movement--the decline and death of friends, of meeting a young Sam Cornish in Baltimore, and is disarmingly honest about her bout  with booze. Viti is a scribe of the cycles of life--encapsulated in her own experience. I was touched by her poem " Judgement"  that describes her experience with her mother when JFK was shot. It captures the intensity I also felt as a 9 year old boy--when we swerved in the car--my mother crying from the news from the radio of the fatal shot. I can remember the long, solemn, black and white processionals across the TV screen--and the intimacy that tragedy can bring on.

I am pleased that I published some of Viti's poems, and I think this book is a fine testament to her craft and more importantly her humanity.

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