Sunday, July 15, 2007

From Poet to Mystery: The Short Distance of Love

Yesterday's festive celebration of the poets of Alice James Press featured readings from Nancy Lagomarsino and Lesle Lewis (prose poets), Amy Dryansky (sharp narrative poems), and Ellen Doré Watson (provocative wrestling with life, love, lust, loss). What energy and what voices! If you weren't there, gosh, I'm sorry...

The poets (sans Nancy, who needed to get home) and AJB publisher April Ossmann joined us at Kingdom Books afterward, to raid the poetry room, share good food (April's an awesome baker), and work on what's next. Looks like Kingdom Books will present an annual AJB salute. The draw of this persistent poetry press has always been the hands-on involvement that it offers to its poets, who take turns serving on the editorial review board that explores some 1,200 manuscripts each year.

Of course, in spite of the recent run of poetry news and reviews here, Kingdom Books is a bicameral shop: poetry/fine press, and mysteries. So we also got into talking about the tradition of British mysteries, and then poet Lesle Lewis (you might not have run into her work yet, but the way her poems stand shoulder to shoulder with those of prose poets like Peter Gizzi, James Tate, and Russell Edson will eventually have a lot of us saying "oh, THE Lesle Lewis!") teased, "I bet you don't have the mysteries written by my brother!"

Hey, give Dave a challenge in the world of mysteries and he's on it. He demanded to know Lesle's brother's name, and when he heard "Stephen Paul Cohen," he grinned in triumph. Not only does he have two of Cohen's mysteries - he has them in his own personal collection, resolutely Not For Sale.

Which only goes to show: Mysteries and Poetry DO belong together, just as close as sister and brother. Matter of fact, as I dug into some reviews of Cohen's mysteries -- Heartless (1986), Island of Steel (1988), and Night Launch (1989) -- I found they had been seen as experimental, edgy, and -- brace for it -- "poetic" in the richness of language and imagery.

I'll be darned.

No comments: