What I’m Reading: “Voices In The Air” by Naomi Shihab Nye

I have just finished “Voices in the Air” (Greenwillow Books 2018), a day-book of poetry by American poet Naomi Shihab Nye of German and Palestinian heritage. It’s subtitled “Poems for Listeners” and reflects her range of subjects reflective of a healthy curiosity. The poems will appeal to those equally curious or willing to be.

I was lucky to watch Nye read recently in Baltimore, Maryland, at the splendid auditorium of The Baltimore Museum of Art. That is my favorite way to be introduced to a new poet. Of course, Nye is the author of several books, has been published widely, and I have encountered her poetry before in magazines and online. Still, my inscribed copy “Voices in the Air” is the first time I’ve read a full book of Nye’s.

Nye is a delightful creative spirit; that was on full display during her reading. Through many asides, she shared tidbits from her creative practice. Likewise, “Voices in the Air” is a collection of accessible poetry that ranges across topics with enchanting imagination. I appreciate the energy of these poems.

Nye’s poetry may be straightforward, and written for a wide audience. Likewise, the stars at night, shining. This book can be read by a precocious high school student and also will reward adults who like pleasure, travel, and wisdom in literature.

I enjoyed “Voices in the Air” and I will probably read it again soon. It sorts of passes through like a sweet breeze. Why not once more? I call it a day-book of sorts, because the book collects various interests in no framed order and so imparts a loose, joyful, insightful, and curious atmosphere. There is no frigate like a book, said Emily Dickinson. True here of Nye’s poems.

G. H. Mosson

www.ghmosson.com

What I’m Watching: Rifkin’s Festival

I enjoyed this 2020 movie by Woody Allen, set in San Sebastian, Spain, a sort of low key drama about a failed writer, university professor (Wallace Shawn) and his publicity agent wife, and what happens at the tail end of a marriage, and whether people stick with it or not.

I. A Discussion

While Rifkin’s Festival is just a quiet, slice of life movie, with some smirks and smiles from the quips throughout, it does also display the skeleton a very good film when Allen’s creativity is fully formed, flowered, and in bloom. For that, I would turn to Wonderwheel (2017), a masterpiece of theatrical film-making with a dramatic script, home run acting, and the realism bordering on the ridiculous, and yet always reaching back to realism, for that melancholy laughter, and heart-tugging drama, that’s juicy and memorable.

So what does Rifkin’s Festival do well that one finds in Allen’s signature approach to film-making? Well, San Sebastian is a delightful, seaside town. Allen’s use of it makes the entire movie easy on the eye. Allen, famously with NYC, uses the present culture and his milieu to elevate his art and he does that here too.

Likewise, Rifkin’s Festival deals with a handful of characters, and this is quite typical of Allen’s film-making. The close focus, often augmented by a certain magical mix of casting the right actors, seems like a play focused on essential characters, rather than a cinema experience with landscapes, travel, car chases, backstories, flash forwards, and the passage of time.

This movie offers a mature story that needs to be read into. The characters lack big scenes where conflict shows us ‘what they are made of’, and so lack the drawn depth of Wonderwheel (2017), or what we get from Cate Blanchet and Andrew Dice Clay both in Blue Jasmine (2013). Rifkin’s Festival had a pleasing ensemble cast, heavily Spanish and European, but this mild-mannered pleasant movie lacked the drama or dialogue necessary for unforgettable acting.

The humor here ran throughout at a steady pace and at the level of a chuckle. This being said, maybe my favorite humorous moment was simply when the Wallace Shawn character, seeming around age-70, said he was working on his first novel and hoping it would be a masterpiece, or, he threatened, he’d just rip it up.

There was no really joke in the scene, except via dramatic irony. I mean, he’s 70. First novel? Fine, yeah right. Of course, it might happened, who knows. That scene produced silent intellectual laughter.

II. Closing Thoughts

In the end, Rifkin’s Festival is worth watching for Allen fans and in the middle tier of his later movies.

For those who haven’t seen an Allen movie for two decades, and want a dramatic one with some bite, then the two mentioned above and Sweet and Lowdown (1999) with Sean Penn are very likely his best of this period.

G. H. Mosson

www.ghmosson.com

What I’m Watching: Aniara

I just finished the Swedish deep space thriller, Aniara, about two weeks ago, such tasty food for the imaginative heart.

I say I’ve just finished it because I just cannot return my copy to the library of this fascinating futuristic tale just yet. Based on a classic Swedish novel of the same name, it ranges as deep into the otherness of space as it delves into the vast microcosm of ourselves. I probably will watch it once more before it goes back into library circulation, and then maybe also soon read the book.

Rather than disclose plot points, I’ll say that Aniara is equal to any space odyssey on film that I’ve seen. I just re-watched Planet of the Apes and I’d say Aniara‘s on par. The analogy also is apt because both are cautionary tales. Go check it out if you dig this genre.

The background premise of Aniara is the story of a passenger ship, traveling to Mars, until it veers off course.

With that in mind, let’s hope our brightest industrialists and scientists will help preserve what we got here, rather than get lost in weird dares.

G. H. Mosson

www.ghmosson.com

What I’m Reading: The Book of Awakening

Well, I believe it is my third year reading this book. Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening (Red Wheel Press), now in its 22nd year. It’s written as a day book. This means, it has entries for each day of the year. Nepo is a poet, philosopher, cancer survivor, and a kind-hearted guide for how things go. Each year I gain further surprise, delight, and understanding in dipping into and swimming through this book.

I still can remember first getting it, looking at it slightly overwhelmed. Thinking: Should I start at the beginning? Well, that question got me nowhere. The book sat unread for a week or so. Then – abandoning any plan – and jumped in at the month I started reading.

That tale of starting what turned out to be a great book is much like a Mark Nepo story. We make plans, but plans should not prevent living. A person is not the product of some picture-perfect plan. At any stage in life, at best, it’s a mix. Yet, sometimes we cannot let go of our plans.

Maybe though, in the end, it’s not letting go of plans – but one’s grip – that’s the essential next step.

Well, I’m reading Nepo’s Seven Thousand Ways of Listening and open to listening deeper, harder, further.

I was delighted as well to hear him recently via an online presentation say this, below:

Students learn.

Teachers remember.

How we take turns.

–Mark Nepo, author of The Book of Awakening

Best, G. H. Mosson

www.ghmosson.com

Check Out Main Street Rag & Press

Thanks to Main Street Rag for bringing out “A Veteran’s Nebraska” and “Tipsy Bozo Before the After Party,” two poems I really like and which found their final form with you in the current Winter 2022 issue.

Based in North Carolina, I remember Main Street Rag, the press and magazine, as a friend to the small press community for years and at least over a decade. Right now, I also am happily reading Yehoshua November’s book of poems, God’s Optimism, from Main Street Rag books.

While I am in the middle of God’s Optimism and cannot sum it up, November’s book is as strong as the individual poems of his I’ve seen in journals from time to time. When November mixes his emotionally resonate philosophical explorations with a well-wrought picture of how it’s interwoven into his daily life, these longer poems so far are my favorites.

A religious Jewish author, it also is refreshing to see poetry depicting everyday life where spirituality does not occur on some specific day or at some specific turn of events, but as part of the atmosphere of life.

You can find God’s Optimism here at this small press book store (link).

Main Street Rag, the mag, is linked here.

G. H. Mosson

www.ghmosson.com

“Chess Match in Brooklyn” (poem)

Thank you El Portal of New Mexico for publishing “Chess Match in Brooklyn,” over twenty years in the works as it was written around the latter part of 2000.

While I cannot exactly remember when it was drafted, I can glimpse back to a day in NYC, soon to be on route to Washington D.C., sitting on a black couch where some of the attitude of this and a few other poems from that time developed – and which remain with me after the moves, visions and revisions, and evolution.

The below links to what’s out and about, which I just found! I never did see the Fall 2021 hard copy of El Portal – don’t need to – but people in New Mexico did, as they invited me to a launch party – a delicious and mysterious bi-continental twist.

Simultaneous Revolutions Reviewed at Loch Raven Review

Editor Dan Cuddy of the Loch Raven Review provides hearty praise and a detailed review of Simultaneous Revolutions, my co-written chapbook with Marcus Colasurdo, which is out through PM Press (Oakland, CA; Frostburg, MD).

Mr. Cuddy concludes: “This book is more a living entity than most books of poetry. The words not only perform but they also engage the reader’s own reality and teach the reader to see, feel. The stanzas and excerpts of the poetry presented in this review are only teasers to the wealth found within its covers.”

The Loch Raven Review is a fine journal, and we both appreciate the insightful discussion. Scary to think my poetry has come out on occasion there for more than a decade! Review linked here.

‘Family Snapshot’: Thumbs Up from Midwest Book Review

D. Donovan of the Midwest Book Review calls my last solo collection, “Family Snapshot as a Poem in Time,” “a poetry collection the entire family can enjoy.”

Ms. Donovan writes: “It’s unusual to see a poetry collection that can appeal across generations, but Family Snapshot as a Poem in Time is such a production. It thus is recommended not just for the usual poetry collection and reader, but for anyone who would absorb reflections on self, family, and the interconnectedness of life, at any age.

The chapbook, out from Finishing Line Press in 2019, offers contemporary adult poems followed by a section of children’s poems. It also received praise from the Loch Raven Review and Kirkus Review. This Nov. 2021 review can be found below. Grateful for insightful readers.

Direct Link: http://donovansliteraryservices.com/november-2021-issue.html#fsa

Midwest Book Review: http://www.midwestbookreview.com/mbw/nov_21.htm#dianedonovan