Sunday, June 7, 2015

Stoneback's new book: The Stones of Strasbourg

 H. R. Stoneback's new volume from Codhill Press: 

The Stones of Strasbourg & Other Poems

More on recent books by H. R. Stoneback

About Homage: A Letter to Robert Penn Warren
“The poem is a delight, a great read, a rumble of energy all the way through…the rhythmic
roll and strut. and the details of the lives braided together.”
    — Dave Smith, poet, Coleman Professor of Poetry, Johns Hopkins U., past editor The Southern  
“I was blown away by the art and power of the thing…what an intertextual tour de force
it is!”
    —William Bedford Clark, poet, Editor of 6-volume Warren Correspondence Project

About Why Athletes Prefer Cheerleaders

“H. R. Stoneback’s recent collection, Why Athletes Prefer Cheerleaders, is a singular
experience. Every one of these poems epitomizes Pound’s old modernist maxim—that
poetry should be at least as well written as prose. Drawn together from over fifty years of
writing, the book is not only a great gathering of poems about sport; it’s a deep sampling
of Stoneback’s voice. Basketball, baseball, zellball, swimming, diving, walking, fishing,
boules—sure, you will find all these sports (and more) invoked. But there’s something
else going on here too:
Down the great winds at work over the roofs of the land
Down the singing maze of the horror of living
Down the wringing wrists of the honor of living
Down the winding abyss... (“Fast Break”)
These are poems rapt by the mysteries of courtside chants and yellowing scorecards,
the glories of place and travel. From “In Those Same Sad Old Churches in Camden” and
“Marrowbone Creek: Sunday Noon” (written in the early 1960s) to the strange twentyfirst-
century country of Australia, New Zealand, and Tahiti, you will hear one man’s voice
telling the holy and broken story of what it has meant to live in the body, in place, in
time. There is nothing like it.”
    —Alex Shakespeare, poet and scholar, Skidmore College

About Amazing-Grace-Wheelchair-Jumpshot-Jesus-Love-Poems

“What I love about Stoneback’s poetry is that it makes you love poetry…He’s a bard,
celebratory and rhythmical, with an unmistakable voice and he gets and begets the numinous
nature of poiesis.”  
    —Allen Josephs, writer, University of West Florida

“[Stoneback is a] Postmodern modernist extraordinaire!”
    —John R. O. Gery, poet, Director Ezra Pound Center for Literature

Sunday, March 8, 2015


New from 
Des Hymnagistes Press:

The Leek Soup Songbook 
by Matthew Nickel

The Leek Soup Songbook
Matthew Nickel
Des Hymnagistes Press, 2015

To order please contact
Praise for The Leek Soup Songbook

The true poet, like the good gardener, must, as Matthew Nickel writes, “know the names of things.” These poems are alive with them, especially what grows in gardens: garlic, tomatoes, cantaloupes, and of course life-giving, death-defying leeks. And every name has a story, told with wit, intelligence, and often—oh so rare, welcome, and difficult!—humor. Nickel, a careful, reverent, joyful gardener of words, shows us how to “stay attentive to the way things grow.”

—Jane Eblen Keller, writer, author of Adirondack Wilderness: A Story of Man and Nature & numerous other works

The Leek Soup Songbook teaches us how to cherish and celebrate moments of communion. An abundance of sensual particulars create poems that glow, shift and blaze with a passion for being. With a sense of connection to all who have come before, to the land they have tilled, Nickel tries to “relive the death of every living thing.” Each poem of memory is underpinned with tenderness and seeks a grace that approaches the sacramental. The Leek Soup Songbook not only nourishes the body with leeks and garlic, but also feeds the soul by showing how to stay centered, how to rise. Like the taste of a savory soup, music and wisdom in this shimmering collection of poems linger first in the ear but finally find their home in the heart.

—Vivian Shipley, poet, Connecticut State University Distinguished Professor, author of All of Your Messages Have Been Erased, Hardboot, & numerous other works

Matthew Nickel’s Leek Soup Songbook is a splendid first volume of poems from an already much published poet and editor. The best songbooks are composed of songs and stories, cantos and canticles, and Nickel’s superbly crafted collection of cantos and tales of seed-time and harvest, love and loss, tragedy and joy, has something for every reader—autochthon or anachthon, gardener or foodie, lovers of earth or well-made poetry. Leeks have been fabled for millennia as aids to the singing voice and here the poet sings wisely and well of place and displacement, of dĂ©paysement and renewal through relocation. With wit and humor, formal equipoise and reinvested echoes of many writers, the poet gives us authentic songs and recipes, hymns and prayers to reclaim the radical innocence of the soul. Nickel’s suffused sense of place and, more importantly, the way he encounters the Deus Loci, the sublime Spirit of Place, invites us all to sing along with him.

—H. R. Stoneback, poet, scholar, singer-songwriter, Distinguished Professor The State University of New York, author of Voices of Women Singing, The Stoney & Sparrow Songbook & numerous other works
From Matthew Nickel, The Leek Soup Songbook

Exile: False River

     We must live with our own conscience.
                               Ernest Gaines

The lake, bending like God’s fingernail, pretends
to be a river and the live oaks imagine you are
one of them waiting in the limp air for rain fall
and down-thrust vomit of thunder clouds.

I pass an old man under an oak tree, legs extended
his head ridged steady as if time had forgotten to drop
off a package and the world kept waiting, his eyes
followed my truck, waved, then back to his contemplations.

Around the old plantation home and down the dirt lane
I followed the topography of history, observed
thin columns around the mansion, the roof heavy
imposing, and imagined ahead a little boy running

to catch his ball in the lane, his sister stopping
as I approach; no words, just a stare out of some
hollow place in the pit of landscape, a reminder
that we cannot name ourselves until we name the

little girl who stops in the road before us. But I drove
by and paused in front of the last shack of the quarters
the dilapidated memorial for nostalgic scrap book,
the folklorists orgasm, a reminder of the condition

we may call being human; the shack, swallowed
now by earth, like all things in Louisiana, a warning
that we are owned by the land, free to wander
only so far; I drift onward slowly down the road

cut into cane fields on a mud track, then ahead the
grove of pecan and oak; they have already started,
I am late, arrive, shovel in hand, ready to work. Greet
familiar faces, I have been here before, he waves;

“Good to see you again,” and Diane smiles bright;
“When you cut the cane for the kids, Mr. Gaines,
please let me know.” Today I help dig the ditches,
last year washed the stones and painted white,

unearthed the half-submerged slabs under weeds
rescued nameless graves of their ancestors, slaves
who worked this land, lived here, loved, and died,
tried to hear their voices hidden in the dust, then

planted chrysanthemums; today, we divert the
water flooding the cemetery, find ancient nails buried
under the roadway, a tool shaped like a hawk
that I am unable to figure about, but am told

“is just what they used then.” After sweat
and long hot work, one of the guys laughs
“that Ernie, he wrote about me once in a story,
you read him, yeah.” I smiled back, and we

shored up the coulée with large stones,
standing in sun, we laughed at our craftsmanship,
“they done this better then, but is OK now.”
We walked back to Mr. Gaines’ home afterward

followed his golf cart through cane fields,
girls riding along beside him, and soon
the smell of gumbo and red beans and voices
made even the distant river seem true.

“Tell us a story, Ernie” said one of the young
men. Gaines hesitated, drew on his Bud Light,
then looked at me and said, “There was this couple
been married 50 years, sitting on their porch before

cane fields, and the old man says, ‘woman,
you know you going to die before I do, and when you
die, I’m going to write on your tombstone, cold
as always.’ Then the woman, she held still a moment

and stared at that cane a long time before she answered,
‘no, you got that wrong, no me, no you going to die
before I do, and when you do, I’m going to write
on your tombstone, stiff, for the first time.’”

Laughter out of bellies under the port cochere
and I think he might have winked at me, or at least
that’s the way I want to remember it, and the feeling
of never wanting to leave Louisiana, to stay and

come back for La Toussaint to Pointe Coupee Parish
to find answers in the smoke of November, to stay
through the jasmine bloom and spring burst—to lose
myself in the dream of the past; just as bad, perhaps

as the photo of the slave quarters. I have wandered far
from False River down false paths, woven betrayals,
I have met myself in empty gloom of sunset beyond
the gulf’s widening yawn and have wished I could

turn back. Wouldn’t you turn back if you could?
No, my feet have kept wandering. I do not know
where the road goes from here. I do not know if
there is a home somewhere along this road.