Thresholds (Apprentice House Press, forthcoming, Fall 2018)
Thresholds is a full-length poetry manuscript, from which I offer ten sample poems. These poems explore the passage of time, persistence of memory, the natural world, the pain of losing a friend to suicide, the complexities of being adopted, and the anger and hurt from being a child of divorce. In some cases, the physical landscapes where these moments took place, where relationships grew and waned, have not withstood the beat of the clock. For a man halfway through his life, though, these landscapes and places are both as they are in the present and, in the case of old haunts, as they used to be, as I knew them long ago. The landscapes are also emotional ones: I find myself revisiting my adoption as an infant, my parents' divorce when I was ten years old, and the deaths of loved ones. As a poet, I seek to lift what's seemingly ordinary into the realm of the crucial; to unleash my howl into the wide firmament, and listen with hope for an answer that replies, "Me too."
Oddly, or perhaps not surprisingly, as I get older I find myself not mellowing with age into a gracious acceptance of all things, good and bad, but getting angrier at myriad forms of injustice, and more determined to shape and influence my world in a positive way. I see wrong in the world, and it's my job as a poet to speak of it. This anger shaped by a deep love for all things sentient is the source whence my political poems and "poems of witness" arise. Of course, one might argue that all poems are political, especially in the way they manipulate the power of language, wresting it away from, and in opposition to official talking points, thinly-veiled executive branch dog-whistle clarion calls for violence against the vulnerable, jargon and double-speak, the mumbo-jumbo of avoidance word-noise, and other dialects of obfuscation used in an attempt to stupefy people into acceptance of real harm being done to them on all levels of society by the powerful. Twenty years ago, the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, one of my teachers at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University, asked us then-20-something Gen-Xers to answer the question, "What sucks?" He wanted us to delve into politics, personal experience, observation of what's wrong with America and the world and address it. Kerouac writes in Visions of Cody, "Go thou, go thou . . . and . . . report you well and truly." This has been my mission: to declare existence in the face of destruction, negation, and erasure at the highest levels; that I--and we--are here, and that, starting with my own experience and reaching outward toward others, our lives and contributions to each other are important.
For some poetic reference points to my work, read the poetry of Sam Hamill, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Anne Waldman, Amiri Baraka, and Sherman Alexie. Further back, go to the Chinese and Japanese poets of antiquity such as Li Po, Tu Fu, Po Chu-I, Meng Chiao, and Basho, among many others. These are poets whose words speak simple truths about the human experience elegantly, directly, with beautiful force and strength. These poets are the axes and the axe handles, to borrow from Snyder's famous poem, whose work has shaped mine.
The majority of the poems in Threhsolds, some of which have won awards, have been published individually. All of the poems offered here as samples have been published or won awards.
On its journey to publication, Thresholds garnered the following recognition: semi-finalist in the 2015 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award, finalist in the 2015 Backwaters Press Prize for Full-length Book Manuscript, runner-up for the 2017 Brick Road Poetry Press Book Contest, and honorable mention in the 2017 Broadkill River Press Dogfish Head Poetry Prize.
Thresholds is under contract to be published by Apprentice House Press in Fall 2018.