Open Book with David Giannini

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David Giannini's poetry traverses the spectrum of human emotion. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that the Becket resident has such a vast array of experiences that he can visit. For 31 years, he was a psychiatric case manager. At different times, he has been a gravedigger, beekeeper and teacher in the Berkshires; he has also volunteered at Jacob's Pillow Dance.

His recent collection, "The Future Only Rattles When You Pick It Up" (2018, Dos Madres Press), examines the myth of Sisyphus over three sections, including a closing prose poetry segment.

"The book is witty yet genuine, raw yet elusive, and just when you begin to think that it is getting too nostalgic — it dawns on you that you are lost in one of Giannini's intricate meditations," writes Ravi Teja Yelamanchili in a review for The Somerville Times.

Giannini started Lee's Writers Read program, a monthly series that brings poets and fiction writers to the Lee Library. He'll be The Bookstore in Lenox's guest on Thursday, June 7 (5:30 p.m.). The poet answered some questions by email Tuesday in advance of the reading.

Q: What is the funniest poem you've ever read?

A: There is no single one, but Russell Edson's prose poems spring immediately to mind. They are often so funny they're serious, or so serious they're screwy, like an octopus jealous of a toilet plunger, or lemmings in love with Quantum Theory. Poetry is made largely of juxtapositions, and Edson is a master of the very odd. The best comedians also know this sense of things, tragedy under the deadpan.

Q; What is the best poem you've read about death?

A: There is no "best" one for me, just poems that are beautifully appropriate, have emotional depth and insight, and sonic sense, from John Donne, say, to W. B. Yeats to Elizabeth Bishop, and certainly Allen Ginsberg's great "Kaddish."

Q: What is your favorite book about dance?

A: Again, there is not one, but Rudolph Nureyev's journals had a profound effect on me early on, the growing madness within the passion, the utter dedication he had. More recently, Misty Copeland's biography is emotionally moving and important for all who aspire to achieve their best as dancers. There really are a number of fine books on dance. Go to The Bookstore in Lenox and/or to the store at Jacob's Pillow!

Q: What is your favorite novel set in New Jersey?

A: I'm not the one to ask, since I rarely read novels anymore. Probably Philip Roth's "American Pastoral" qualifies for me. To my mind, New Jersey IS a novel, from which few escape, but I did.

Q: Where is your favorite place to get lost in a book in the Berkshires?

A; The soft leather cushions of my favorite couch at home in Becket. I often find myself "lost" at home, and that's often when a poem starts its often arduous path in me.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child?

A: "Mr. Potato Head" came first, but the tale was first told to me by my aunt, Maxine, so I was first listening to the sound of her telling and how she told it. Imagining a speaking, living potato was certainly "of influence." Curiously enough, I eventually owned a "spud gun" to fire off bits of potato. Then came the Dr. Seuss books, and biographies of Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, and Davy Crockett mattered a lot. Also the imaginative, thrilling, and often scary "Grimm's Fairy Tales," plus a little book of Greek myths.

Q: What books are currently on your nightstand?

A: I never read in bed, so no nightstand matters. I try to read about five books simultaneously: books of poetry, neuroscience, literary essays and essays on the natural environment among them. These days, I rarely read novels. After decades of learning to compress meanings in poems, it is difficult to read what seems long-winded, no matter how well it blows. Right now I am reading two books of excellent poetry, one by Sarah Sousa and another by Charles Rafferty. Both recently read in my reading series, Writers Read (at the Lee Library).

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.


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