Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sublime Brevities

Sublime Brevities
By Tom Wachunas

“Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.” - Novalis –

“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.” - T.S.Eliot –

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” - G.K.Chesterton –

Methinks Chesterton may have been a cheese connoisseur, but don’t quote me on that. I’m willing to bet, though, that since he posited the observation quoted above, at least a few ‘modern’ poets have regaled us in one way or another with the glories of coagulated milk curd. Then again, many would-be poetry readers might share satirist Russell Baker’s ennui over modern poetry when he at one point whined that “…most of it began to read like coded messages passing between lonely aliens on a hostile world.” Well, boo hoo. Let them eat cheese.

But seriously. It seems to me that poets and poetry have got a fragile hold on the short end of the big media attention stick these days. We crave our blockbuster novels, our bold, scandalous celebrity autobiographies and chilling confessionals, and all manner of new-age self-help drivel because, quite simply, we’re told to. A conditioned response. The megamarketing machines of the publishing world are a collective Pied Piper, too easily leading us down blissfully banal paths to the latest, most sensationalistic literary doings of the day. Trending never ending.

Maybe it’s the flawed perception that poetry is too private and brief, too arcane and strange, seemingly inaccessible and irrelevant to minds numbed by the grandiosities of “popular entertainment”. To be fair, poetry can be thoroughly challenging - by its very nature alternately intimate, mystifying, and even nonsensical in its manipulations of language. Yet it is poetry’s often beautiful (and yes, sometimes maddening) indeterminacy that imbues it with its truly artful, unique wonder - a wonder too often swallowed up and forgotten as we feast on other culturally dominant menus. And I admit that it’s been far too long since I’ve slowed down long enough to really taste and savor good poetry.

I’m happily reminded of all this by a superb new 157-page anthology of poetry and short prose called “Turning Leaves”, edited by Dr. Audrey Lavin and Dr. Ray Gehani (both of whom having entries in the book). The book is comprised of works by 30 Northeast Ohio writers, and grew out of the Wednesday Writers Workshop. Aside from the skillfully wrought pieces from 21 poets, the short prose entries – both fiction and non-fiction – are equally sharp, engrossing, and often ‘poetic’ in their own right. Most impressive is the collective depth of vision, styles, and poignant thematic content. Its emotional and spiritual scope is remarkably wide, providing a warm embrace of life’s joy, sorrow, mystery, whimsicality, and humor that is as edifying as it is genuinely entertaining.

Reading this compelling, inspiring montage is like pouring over a journal of world views that range from searingly personal to profoundly familiar. Rest assured that these literary musings aren’t indulgent, cryptic notes passed between disillusioned aliens bemoaning a cruel or absurd cosmos. They are, each in their own way, intimate and evocative reports from the hearts and minds of very observant human artists, fully engaged with living here and now.

The book (paperbound) “Turning Leaves” (WWW Creative Publishers, ISBN: 0615455860 / ISBN 13: 97806115455860 ) is available at Amazon ($12.95), or can be purchased directly ($10.00 plus postage) by emailing Also check out Audrey Lavin at and her blog, Whodunit?, at

Photo: “The Reader”, oil by Claude Monet

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