A Year of Morning Thanks
So I'm preparing for class yesterday, when I check through the poems in the anthology I'm using, and find two very, very powerful poems by some guy name Gabriel Spera, a poet I've never heard of (not that I know them all). These poems knock me out, really--they're perfectly well done; not only thoughtful but absolutely stunning.
Who is this guy? I ask myself, and I google his name and turn up a few more really interesting poems from the net. This one, "In a Field Outside of Town," is too long to reprint here, but have a look sometime. It's an amazing poem--http://www.poetrymagazine.org/magazine/0499/poem_29739.html --about mass murder in what seems Bosnia.
I discover Mr. Spera has won at least one important award, the 2004 Pen Center Award for Poetry for his only book, The Standing Wave. So I go to the Pen Center website, where I read this:
Gabriel Spera’s first collection of poems, The Standing Wave, moves effortlessly from old questions about the nature of God and the devil to
contemporary concerns to personal meditations on time and loss. “The book demanded our attention for the emotional range of the poems and for the maturity of craft exhibited there,” said the judges. “In short, this book is extraordinary.” Not only does Spera ask the big questions, he does so
“brilliantly” and exhibits a willingness to provide answers to serious and troubling issues of the day, especially in the unforgettable and essential “The Suicide Bombers” and “In a Field Outside the Town.” The poems are “so packed with metaphor we seem in 2004 almost to have forgotten how to read them,” add the judges. “Reading this book we remember that we love metaphor, love the old ways of speaking, not only in an individual voice but in the collective voice of our conscience.”
Okay, I probably buy far too many books for someone who swears he's got to get rid of them and thereby lighten the load on the road toward retirement; but I don't often buy books of poetry, and besides, this guy had me slack-jawed.
On to Amazon. I type in his name, find the award winner, and discover it's out of print. Not terribly surprising, of course, poetry as important to our culture as, say, blacksmithing. But I can buy it used. Click.
Get this. It cost me a penny. Okay, a couple bucks shipping, but I can buy this guy's poetry, a prize-winning collection of stunning poems from just four years ago, for one red cent. Flypaper costs more.
I'm not sure how much our retirement accounts lost yesterday when the stock market tanked once more. I don't want to know. I've no idea how much we're paying to try to steady the financial ship of state, not really; I mean, I can probably dig up the numbers, but does anyone really have an idea of how much loot that it, of what else could be done with it?
The air is full of billions and trillions as of late; an additional digit on the national debt meant the number exceeded the space it's been given on some neon sign in NYC. I can't possible fathom that kind of money.
And yet here's the story--yesterday, I met a poet who knocked my socks off with brilliant language and arresting, transcendent ideas; a half-hour later, from the comfort of my study, I bought his book, an award winner, for a penny.
I just don't know what to say about that. Maybe I should be thankful. But I'm not. For eleventy-seven reasons, I'm sad.
But I've got the poems. And that's reason enough to be thankful this morning.