“Dawn of Nothing Important” by David Giannini; “You Can Travel Forever” by Daisy Mathias
The dawn of the important ordinate
By David Giannini; Madres Back Press
“Once upon a time,” says David Giannini, who lived in Leverett and Montague and worked in a now defunct bookstore in Northampton. He filled in for one of the late poet James Tate’s MFA courses at the University of Massachusetts Amherst while Tate was away. .
These days, Giannini lives in Becket, where he has been busy writing and publishing an impressive number of poetry collections over the past few years, winning a number of Massachusetts Artists Fellowship Awards and other accolades, including the James Hearst Poetry Finalist Award 2020.
In Giannini’s latest collection, “The Dawn of Nothing Important,” the former UMass and Williams College professor offers a sometimes whimsical, sometimes darker look at the world around us, reflecting on the pandemic, changing seasons, loneliness, childhood, passage of time and more.
Part beekeeper (and gravedigger), Giannini also reveals a close connection to the natural world, writing about both its wonders and the threats it faces. In “Beekeeper”, the poet talks about his work and the techniques of beekeeping, such as the use “less cooler smoke / likely to irritate bees on hot summers // days when we move around on an old lumpy mattress…”
It is important, also writes Giannini, to leave sufficient reserves of honey for the wintering bees, because on a planet where the natural rhythms of life have been considerably modified by man, “This world does not balance itself.”
“The Dawn of Nothing Important” is divided into eight sections, and one of these sections has the same title. The poems here are notable not only for their general brevity and unusual structure, but also because the last word or line of each poem serves as the title of the next work, creating a sense of movement, time travel, and ‘space.
In “Viral Packet,” another section of the book, Giannini reflects on the disruption and strangeness wrought by COVID-19, such as its grim start to early 2020:
“We are all waiting for news from the unseen // to arrive. The human world locked inside. Every / day, broadcasters tell us about the chances of dying soon, while others / cling to families .
In the prose poem “Covid Paranoia Insomnia”, the pandemic could be read as a metaphor for something more sinister, “a great threat” – environmental, political, spiritual or a combination of the three – that moves across the country: “Nobody knows exactly when or if he will stop in his tracks, or for how long. The hand of our hands, flailing.
But “Viral Plaza,” a prose poem full of puns, offers a bit of humor, a look at the variety of masks people wear in supermarkets and the images they conjure up: “Candy / is dandy but the eye-candy bandana masks do / all seem like a bunch of prankster thieves before the heist / plan to defeat the virus while paying with fake credit cards.”
The poet finds more humor in “How Happiness Returns”, the story of a multi-generational family picnic where “we know the children in us are back, / the happiness of waving around the trees” and everyone is seated “Together at the table, feeling bloated after the feast.”
Giannini’s poems, says one reviewer, “often seem to grow organically on the page, surprising us with an abundance of living forms, and his attention…looks to us now, especially in this time of contagion and risk. .. Curiosity for him is a kind of loving care.
You can travel forever
By Marguerite Mathias; book design by James McDonald/The Impress Group
The late Daisy Mathias, of Northampton then Holyoke, had a deep love of poetry. She started writing verse as a young woman and for 15 years hosted a radio show, “Poetry a la Carte” at WMUA 91.1 FM. Mathias, who died in 2020 at the age of 79, also worked with writers and poets as chairman of the writing conference committeeAngles Conference at South Hadley.
Today, his family, friends and fellow poets have published a collection Mathias was working on before his death, “You Can Travel Forever”, in which the poet writes with emotion about the natural world, including the landscapes of the western Massachusetts, as well as about love. , loss, friendships and memories.
Several free verse poems by Mathias examine family ties, recalling his childhood and marking the passing of loved ones. In “Learning Gravity,” the poet recalls climbing a tree in front of her house as a young girl, her mother watching her nervously from the front door; yet her mother is reluctant to arrest her, knowing her daughter “must learn gravity.”
Years later, Mathias reflects on his mother’s death and his guilt for not being with her when she died, noting that life will always involve risks – but risks are always worth taking: “I still climb trees, like when / I was ten, I want to navigate space with wings, / I know I’ll slip and fall, / Climb again.”
“The Basket” and the prose poem “Anatomy Lesson” both contemplate the sudden death of her father at age 56. His father loved to garden, so for his last birthday, Mathias gave him a gardening basket for the following spring, not knowing he would. not live that long: “He cried, tears slow rolling down his cheeks. / I stood by his chair, appalled, not knowing what to say.
Mathias writes perhaps most happily about the contentment she has always found in the natural world. In “Wild”, which is preceded by Henry Thoreau’s remarkable quote, “In the wild is the preservation of the world”, the poet contrasts the fundamental connection that a newborn baby and its mother have with the feeling that she has when she sits, barefoot, on a forest floor.
“No civilized constraints of shoelaces, soles, / toes wiggle, arches lift, with no weight they carried. / Breathe, be here now and feel the roots reach into the core of the earth… you reconnect when the bare skin, the sole / Takes you to the roots, to the feelings, once again together.