“It is sometimes said that a language is a dialect with an army. You could say that Italian is a dialect with a great poet. There was no ‘Italian’ in Dante’s time. He wrote in the dialect of his native Florence, a language we know as Italian because of him. His creation of the Commedia secured for Florentine the supremacy of all competing dialects. The seventh and final chapter explores this historical reality. In the Paradiso Dante tries to express in human language a reality that is beyond human understanding : the vision of God.”
“despite enjoying a mere half-life—
no wife, girlfriend, family or friends
I remain (to myself at least)
somewhat “interesting,””
— From The Wherewithal: A Novel in Verse by Philip Schultz, reviewed at The Rumpus by Barbara Berman.
“And there were, like old wedding lace in an attic,
among the boas and parasols and the tea-colored
daguerreotypes, hints of an epochal happiness
as ordered and infinite to the child
as the great house road to the Great House.”
— From “The Star Apple Kingdom” in The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013 by Derek Walcott, reviewed by Barbara Berman

Their bodies spooned into a kiss.
A small detail the untrained eye would miss.
A confession under covers
Just an old married couple.

From Cornelius Eady’s “The Old Married Couple,” in Barbara Berman’s Chapbook Roundup

“The anxiety in the drinking glasses grows/ out of your secret whirl to the ward’s/ green light, to the corridors,/ to the glass partition, to the farewell/ with dry eyelashes, this death/ that no longer has any time.”
— From “To Find the Vein” in Theme of Farewell and After-Poems by Milo De Angelis, reviewed beautifully by Barbara Berman
“There are bodies that stay home and keep living.
Wisteria and Queen Anne’s Lace
But women and children, too.
And countless men at gasoline stations.
Schoolteachers who resemble candles,
Boys with metabolisms geared to the future.
Musicians trying for moon effects.
The sky, which cannot expire, readies itself with clouds
Or a perfect blue
Or halos or the amoebic shapes
Of things to come.
The railway weeds are filled with water.
How do living things carry particles
Of sacrifice? Why are gods talking in the corn?
Enough to feel the future underfoot.
Someone is crying three houses down.
Many are gone or are going.”
— From “Life in Wartime,” a poem in Stephen Kuusisto’s Letters to Borges, reviewed by Barbara Berman at The Rumpus.
“Even at six a bewildered sadness
tugs at the corner of his eyes.
He holds his spine overly erect,
as if it had been cured by creosote and sun,
hardened as the fence posts
that separated white town from Indian.”
— From “Photograph of My Father at Six,” in Selvage by Donna Johnson, reviewed by Barbara Berman at The Rumpus!
“The success of the Rumpus Poetry Book Club is proof that an audience exists for serious, quality poetry, and if you are reading this, I assume you are part of that audience. I also assume that you have people on your gift list who are intimidated by good verse. If I’m right, treat them to a copy of A Glossary of Chickens by Gary Whitehead. It’s skillful and beautiful without being twee, and like every book I’m about to mention, it deserves a wide audience. It’s also gently amusing, with some high-flying acrobatics thrown in that never feel forced.”
“Not farewell, not farewell but faring
forth into the grace of transformed
— From Denise Levertov’s “Relearned the Alphabet.” Barbara Berman quotes from it in her review of Denise Levertov: A Poet’s Life by Dana Greene.

They called me The Wimp, and I was.
Not for any reason I can put my finger on
but because, in general, I lacked wherewithal.

I was a poltroon, and none of them
knew that word or any better than “wimp”
and probably still don’t. If one of them does,

I wouldn’t know so. These years before
and during and after high school
swirl in my memory now like squalls of snow,

like the time when, on a whim, in late December,
my friends and I told our folks we were going camping
in the wildlife refuge two towns over,

the flakes already falling, our gear pitiful
hand-me-downs, none of it insulated or waterproof,
rum bottles clinking in our knapsacks like muffled toasts

to the end of our young lives. Inches had fallen
by the time we bivouacked at the Caratunk cave.
Wet kindling whispered. Not even leaves would catch.

In five o’clock dark, we crawled into the tent
soaked and shivering and stoned, no one willing to state
the obvious –that we might die out there in what,

we all knew by then, was a blizzard unpredicted.
Who it was had the wherewithal to suggest
we pack it in, I don’t recall, but I remember humping,

drunk and exhausted, through two-foot drifts
in the hushed woods, my toes gone numb in thin boots,
our flashlight beams a mix up mystification

panning over moguls of snow-covered brush.
I wouldn’t have minded expiring there
under the laden arms of a spruce.

The past is a distance, and life has, at times,
been a stumbling through thick drifts, batteries dying.
They’d think of me still as The Wimp.

So there’s the future, like the lost pair of sneakers
we found in the spring, and growing between
their double-knotted laces a sapling.

— Gary J. Whitehead’s poem, “The Wimp,” from his new collection A Glossary Of Chickens, reviewed at The Rumpus by Barbara Berman.