Book review: Poet Giannini offers expressions of compassionate observation

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Andrei Codrescu, a seminal voice in American poetry and once regular commentator on NPR, described poetry by David Giannini of Becket as poems that " know a mysterious grace.

They hover lightly about the imminent birth of things, taking shape from the clenching & declenching of the story locked in the human form." The poet says that the poems and prosepoems in this new volume are selected from 45 years of laboring and living in the Berkshires. Giannini started out by digging graves on Florida Mountain, taught at Williams College, the University of Massachusetts, Berkshire Community College, he has been a bee keeper, and eventually co-founded the first rehabilitation clubhouse, called Compass Center, for chronically and severely mentally ill people in the northwest corner of Connecticut. He is also on the staff at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival where you are likely to hear his great baritone projection of voice calling audiences into the shows. A man of many experiences and connections with people and nature, Giannini communicates the ineffable and the beautiful in life through a rare and practiced voice in poetry.

The wonderful thing about poetry is its multitudes of poetic styles, tones, forms, and subject matter. Giannini has published over 40 collections of poetry to date. "Faces Somewhere Wild" contains a variety of styles and forms, most notably his prosepoems, which capture the poetic narrative of his curious and searching mind. A prolific writer, he has astonishingly published three other volumes this year already: "Porous Borders" (Spuyten Duyvil), "Four Plus Four" (Country Valley Press) and "Rickshaw Chasm" (Feral Press).

James Laughlin, founder of the ground-breaking New Directions Publishing, which has produced some of the best in American poetry, said, "David Giannini is one of the most interesting and original of American poets." The poetry in "Faces Somewhere Wild" reveals this completely in poems of the earth and the people who inhabit this poet's unique perspectives, that is, fresh views and expressions of compassionate observation. They are songs of connection and disconnection, often of a longing to know the essential nature and more the proper way to say what we most often can only feel. It is through the magic of a turn of phrase or the inventive use of a word that can get the reader there for that most fulfilling experience.

In the title poem we are drawn into the life of a kit fox in reverie and the old koan: What was your original face/before your parents were born? The little fox brightens "starts up again/skips-at-the-pace-of-a-quick-brook" as suddenly we identify, even become a little fox, perhaps in reincarnation, catching joy of nature, brand new and fully experienced. It is the same fulfillment to read these poems.

Colin Harrington is the events manager at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox. He welcomes reader comments at charrington686@gmail.com

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