Hymns to Life
Poets Frank O'Hara and Bill Berkson collaborated on several works in the early '60s, collected for the first time in Hymns of St. Bridget & Other Writings. The pieces include a cycle of poems inspired by a church on New York City's Lower East Side ("My heart is corresponding oddly and with odd things and I/ sometimes wonder if the future holds nothing/ but the Surgical-Dental Co. and Disney/ the light is getting dim and a softness is settling/ over the aluminum appliances and the fire escapes/ and a fresh green paint over my royal flush heart"), prose poetry created for the 1961 New York City Ballet program and a play about a transatlantic flight. (Owl Press [P.O. Box 126, Woodacre, Calif. 94973], $14 paper 86p ISBN 0-9669430-5-8; Mar.)
"Of what avail is life—why sigh and fret,/ When manly hopes are only born to fade?/ Although declared a man, a vassal yet/ By social caste—a crime by heaven made!" writes politician, journalist and poet John Willis Menard in "The Negro's Lament," one of the poems in Lays in Summer Lands. Menard (1838-1893), the first African-American congressman (elected 1868) and a vocal advocate of black civil rights, spent much of his life in Florida, whose landscapes and vernaculars are prominent in his work. Editors Larry Eugene Rivers, history professor at Florida A&M University, University of Tampa English professor Richard Mathews and author Carter Brown Jr. (Laborers in the Vineyard of the Lord) have brought the book back into print for the first time since its initial publication in 1879. (Univ. of Tampa, $24.95 168p ISBN 1-879852-74-8; Mar.).
Two poets—co-founders of Burning Deck press, professors in Brown University's writing program, prolific translators (and spouses to boot)—Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop tell the stories of their writing lives in Ceci n'est pas Keith—Ceci n'est pas Rosmarie. Keith: "With neither great and wonderful actions nor any sense of glory to report, I write this—or maybe it's these—against decay of remembrance." Rosmarie: "Turning a 'Noh' mask slightly downward is known as 'clouding' because the mask takes on a melancholy aspect. 'Light cannot be wrong'.... Still, I circle like a moth until the blinding splendor will exceed the anxiety of wings." Readers will disagree with the first statement, and find the second, along with the book that contains it, luminous. (Burning Deck [SPD, dist.], $10 paper 96p ISBN 1-886224-49-8; Apr.)
An avant-garde '60s filmmaker in the same orbit as Andy Warhol and Jack Smith, Piero Heliczer (1937—1993) has been rediscovered by film enthusiasts—and now poets. A Purchase in the White Botanica: The Collected Poetry of Piero Heliczer spotlights his other, lesser-known artistic endeavor, via the editorship of his friends and fellow poets Gerard Malanga and Anselm Hollo. This anthology of Heliczer's dreamlike, New York School—inspired verse ("much like the zinc patter and flat/ perspective of paris in the lukecool light the/ nude tree man is wormed he loves/ that scrawl of plumbing the small perfectly/ shaped girl walking slowly") collects his previously published books and early undergraduate work, and includes a biographical interview with Heliczer's sister. (Granary, $15.95 paper 151p ISBN 1-887123-57-1; Mar.)
As translator and American poet Roger Greenwald (Connecting Flight) explains in his introduction to the bilingual volume North in the World: Selected Poems of Rolf Jacobsen, Jacobsen (1907—1994) was one of the first Norwegians to write in unrhymed free verse, to use colloquial speech and to draw on contemporary urban scenes and experiences. These poems, drawn from throughout Jacobsen's career, frequently take up new technologies and the relationship between nature and the man-made world. "Under the gutter gratings,/ under the moldy stone cellars,/ under the damp roots of avenues with linden trees/ and the parks' lawns:/ The telephone cables' nerve fibers./ The gas pipes' hollow veins./ Sewers." (Univ. of Chicago, $35 354p ISBN 0-226-39035-7; Apr.)
"How crowded the city/ a war has just passed through./ Streets with ruined houses, whole blocks devastated,/ ...now roads widened, trees planted,/ new train station, new flower basin in the garden,/ ...multicolored shirts and dresses, the carefree, the/ loudspeakers blaring out new songs." So poet Y Nhi describes a postwar cityscape in Vietnam. She's one of the writers anthologized in Six Vietnamese Poets., edited by poet Nguyen Ba Chung and Kevin Bowen, director of the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. The volume also showcases the work of Nguyen Khoa Diem, Lam Thi My Da, Nguyen Duc Mau, Xuan Quynh and Pham Tien Duat, all of whom came of age during the American war and offer scenes of Vietnamese life in the last 40 years. (Curbstone, $15.95 paper 272p ISBN 1-880684-76-4; Apr.)
Esteemed Turkish poet Ali Yüce, the author of more than 15 books in his home country, has his first book of English translations with the publication of Voice Lock Puppet. This bilingual collection, translated by Sinan Toprak and Gerry LaFemina, teachers of political science and writing, respectively, at Kirtland Community College in Michigan, features work from throughout Yüce's career. Pastoral odes and surrealist love poems sit side by side with more political pieces. "People, let's share/ our fistfuls of pain, our pockets/ of pride, and our slivers of joy./ We may mold love from anger and grudges/....This is our new land—/ we'll hoist the flag of beauty up our poles." (Orchises Press [P.O. Box 20602, Alexandria, Va. 22320-1602], $14.95 paper 96p ISBN 0-914061-95-X; Mar.)