Here are two book reports; one on:
And one on:
I’ve posted poems from both these books and am afraid if I don’t stop and review these books I am inadvertently going to serialize both books in their entirety! And that would not be right.
Verse & Universe was a gift to me, I think for Christmas, some few years ago. It is a collection of poems with science as the focal point of the poems and the poetry is all American and written in the second half of the twentieth century. From the introduction:
With two notable exceptions – Loren Eisely (naturalist, anthropologist, paleontologist) and Roald Hoffmann (recipient of the Nobe Prize for Chemistry in 1981) – the poets represented here are not scientists. The work produced is not science, but art. Poems focusing on scientific themes – like any other poems – wind up as disquisitions on loneliness or chance, love, praise, hope, despair, or any number of other subjects from the timeless infinity of human experience.
As a book of poetry to own, I recommend it. It is one of those poetry books that is perfectly suited to simply open to a random page and start hunting for great poems. Definitely not one to read cover-to-cover. Also, if you want a poem about say, Space, simply turn to Chapter 2, Space on page 23 and there are fifteen poems on Space.
Besides being a great book to stumble upon interesting poetry you might not have found elsewhere, it is a great book to discover poets you might not have known about. Believe it or not, that’s where I found out about Howard Nemerov. Really. Yeah, I know! I don’t get out enough! Here are some other poets in the book I discovered for the first time and they are awesome:
Maura Stanton, Roald Hoffmann (he’s a really good poet!), Brenda Hillman, William Stafford, and Robert Francis. There’s lots more – I haven’t researched them all and checked out their other work, but these poets are top notch.
We’ll end this review with a short, fun poem by Rita Dove:
I prove a theorem and the house expands:
the windows jerk free to hover near the ceiling.
the ceiling floats away with a sigh.
As the walls clear themselves of everything
but transparency, the scent of carnations
leaves with them. I am out in the open
and above the windows have hinged into butterflies,
sunlight glinting where they’ve intersected.
They are going to some point true and unproven.
Verse & Universe is a handsome volume, 339 pages, a worthwhile addition to your library. I recommend you order a copy immediately.
If it is possible for two books of poetry to be opposites of one another, In a Dybbuk’s Raincoat is a polar opposite in just about every way to Verse & Universe.
I found out, briefly, about Bert Meyers from reading the Anthology, Poets of the Non-Existent City, where he is one of the featured poets. I’ve had that book for some time now – must be over five years and there are a lot of great poets represented there. I’m also interested, no, fascinated by that time in American literary history from the late ’50s to the early ’70s. Lots of good stuff. Anyhow, it seemed that every time I read the Bert Myers poems, they bored themselves deeper and deeper into my soul. Finally, I had had enough and I went ahead and bought myself a copy of his posthumously published collected poems, In a Dybbuk’s Raincoat.
Bert Meyers is one of Americas top lyric poets ever. Period. It is a crime he is not more well known. Maybe because he never wrote a big hit poem that just captured that certain something. Well. He’s not that kind of poet. Meyer’s poetry is deeply personal, deeply genuine, and filled to the brim – no – overflowing the brim with imagery perfectly suited to the poem’s intent. He has a kind of genius for imagery – but he always stays real.
Another thing I like about his poetry is he doesn’t pretend after answers – he lays it all out. A real lyric poet in mid-20th century Los Angeles. What an anachronism. He must have been a man with a stout heart. I just love his poetry. Check this out:
College Town Blues
pretty lakes and lot of snow
but the people
all have clocks for hearts
and cheese for faces
the mountains look like tooth decay
I’d rather be in Paris
the sunlight’s made of wine
clouds go by
like baby carriages
who cares about the time
the boulevards shine like stars
at night you’re in the sky
But I’m still here
in a college town
suburban armpit U.S.A.
the smog just oozes
over from L.A.
in a place called Maria’s
where the coffee’s
and the people
all look the same
in different sizes
even the dirt apologizes
it’s neat and clean
But late at night
the gentle wind leaps
like a rapist from a bush
the walls of ivy creak
and all the Ph.D.s
stare at their TVs
gossip drink play cards
but never never scream
I love this guy! Check him out and buy his book! Food for the soul.
1928–1979Poet Bert Meyers was the son of Sephardic Jewish parents who emigrated from Spain to Brooklyn and then settled in Los Angeles. He grew up in East Hollywood and left high school to become a master picture framer and gilder. Though he did not attend college, Meyers was admitted to the Claremont Graduate School based on the strength of his poetry and earned a PhD. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/bert-meyers