20 Sep

Poetry – His New York by John Brantingham

His New York
by John Brantingham

My father chose
my first and middle names
because they were
the two most popular names
that year, and he never wanted
me to feel like an outsider,
a moment of kindness
from an American man
whose son was being born
in a hospital in the Netherlands.
These were the days
when fathers waited outside
while mothers gave birth inside,
and I imagine him
with the cup of coffee
that was always in his hands
staring out at the rain
and sea or the endless flat fields
that were so different
from his New York,
talking to people who spoke his language
because he couldn’t speak theirs,
and worrying that his son might feel
what he was feeling right then.
Now I’ve moved back to his New York
after having lived most of my life
east of Los Angeles,
and the snow is falling,
and the copse of trees down the road
are all birch, I think.
Maybe he walked these woods
when he was young.
Maybe he liked to wander
out into them and follow
the deer tracks as they wended
through the trees and off along the hills.
I like to do that too.

John Brantingham

John Brantingham was the first poet laureate of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines and in Writer’s Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016. He has nineteen books of poetry and fiction including his latest fiction collection Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press).

05 May

Staff Review: The Green of Sunset by John Brantingham

(the following review will also be published in Volume 2, Issue 1)

John Brantingham’s The Green of Sunset is a beautiful collection of prose poetry. Brantingham explores the human psyche to depths we, ourselves, almost refuse to acknowledge until present with truths we prefer to not think about. And that is exactly what he does. Yet he treats each subject and each emotion with the utmost respect and humanity. The only judgment he makes, if any, is on his own follies and we, as readers, can learn to laugh at our own.

The collection is a series of breathless poems, power beyond the measure of each. He explores a wide range of humanity and human experience from youth to loss, people in relation to nature, memory, and even briefly a body swap all with deceptively simple language.

… but I wasn’t afraid because my mother was framed in the back door, calling to me, and that fundamentalist faith I had that as long as she was there even God couldn’t reach out his hand and strike me down for the sins written on my childhood soul.

from “Mythology”

Brantingham is a master of the written word—each choice is deliberate and reflects the meaning of the whole poem and collection, building into a crescendo for each ending. There are no punches pulled and nowhere left to hide from confronting his reality—a reality we all know too well. His personal reflections are those we recognize as fleeting moments in our own lives, these deep secrets we try to hide from are brought to life on the page.

Anders is probably the first poet I’ve ever known who distrusts academia and teachers and schools and education in general. …. He tells me about why he didn’t finish high school, about the physics teacher who belittled him in front of his friends. He tells me about how when I was in college, he was bumming his way through Europe, Asia, India, Africa, and South America. …. He’s like so many of the students I’ve seen, feeling like outsiders, being told that they don’t belong.

from “Up Here in Rural Canada”

The Green of Sunset is a collection to turn to at any moment, to read and re-read until the pages are worn. You may or may not find comfort within the book, but you will find parts of you that you didn’t know had wandered off.