Life in the Second Circle: Poems

Able Muse Press
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 Life in the Second Circle is the first collection from Michael Cantor, finalist in the 2011 Able Muse Book Award. Cantor's poetry globe-trots in time and place. It teems with such culturally diverse characters and scenes as Genghis Khan and Muhammad Ali; a pithy mise-en-scène of a Venice travelogue; Brighton Beach in Florida and its natives or turistas; and what can happen in Japan on tatami mats or behind shoji screens, whether you’re a geisha or samurai or gaijin. His themes span the mystical to the hard-edged and “badass,” fluently deployed in formal poems in received or nonce forms and free verse. From the narrative to the imagistic and even the surreal, Cantor's versecraft is eclectic, brimming with wit and wisdom, and realized with the craft of a master storyteller. He has created a collection of unique pleasures not to be missed.

PRAISE FOR LIFE IN THE SECOND CIRCLE:

Dante’s second circle of hell was reserved for sins of lust, but Cantor’s narrator does not judge his infernal cast of characters; rather, he causes us to identify with their essential human neediness. What’s more, he does so through a cinematic gift for storytelling and a mastery of poetic form.
               – Julie Kane

Michael Cantor uses words to paint and sculpt the world. He writes the world too—which I don’t say as an afterthought, since verbal wit is Cantor’s forte. Life in the Second Circle is a sensory kaleidoscope where the poems are more like movies.
               – Deborah Warren (from the “Foreword”)

To be called “a poet’s poet” passes for a compliment among poets. Michael Cantor is another, rarer kind of poet—let’s say “a novelist’s poet.” This poet knows things that writers of fiction know about writing, and that other poets ignore at their peril. This extraordinary collection is testament to his unaffected generosity and genuine interest in other people, qualities that make him good company in person and in print.
               – Alfred Nicol

This is not your mother’s book of poems.
               – Wendy Videlock

Like Muhammad Ali, one of the “Box Men” he celebrates in a virtuosic crown of sonnets, Cantor is a master of floating like a butterfly in a small, roped-off space. In his hands the most formidably difficult forms—villanelles, triolets, Petrarchan sonnets, sestinas, ballades, and equally rigorous stanzas of his own invention—become spurs to imaginative freedom. Like the vividly drawn characters who populate Life in the Second Circle, we are constantly reminded that one never knows where life will go, or how or when or where. But it’s a pleasure to be along for the ride.
               – Catherine Tufariello

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About the author

 Michael Cantor’s work has appeared in Measure, The Dark Horse, The Raintown Review, Umbrella, SCR, Margie, Chimaera and numerous other journals, e-zines and anthologies. His honors include the New England Poetry Club Erika Mumford (2006) and Gretchen Warren (2008) Prizes. He has been a finalist or semifinalist in the Howard Nemerov, Donald Justice, Richard Wilbur and Morton Marr Award competitions. A chapbook, The Performer, was published by Pudding House Press in 2007. A native New Yorker, he has lived and worked in Japan, Europe and Latin America, and now lives on Plum Island, MA.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Able Muse Press
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Published on
Mar 22, 2012
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Pages
130
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ISBN
9780987870568
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Language
English
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Genres
Poetry / American / General
Poetry / Asian / General
Poetry / Subjects & Themes / Places
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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 A Vertical Mile from Richard Wakefield is a finalist in the 2011 Able Muse Book Award. Keenly observed themes about people and the land they live in show a profound sense of awe before natural beauty and a love of country life, while recognizing the effect of indifference and inexorable technological advancement. Included are poems about childhood, seasonal changes, mountain climbing, religion and its questions and doubts, life and death, human origins. These poems of stunning artistry show Wakefield in complete command of his craft. This a memorable collection whose insights and pleasures are not to be missed.

PRAISE FOR A VERTICAL MILE:

Deeply rooted in the human history and natural order of his native state, Richard Wakefield’s A Vertical Mile depicts life in rural Washington—people, animals, plants, geological formations, the weather and the seasons. Building on his powerful and impressive first collection East of Early Winters, Wakefield, in A Vertical Mile, has now firmly established himself as one of America’s foremost formal poets. In their memorable presentation by way of deftly employed narrative, meter, rhyme, metaphor, symbol, and diction, the poems in this new collection, once read, cannot be easily dislodged from the mind. That, in itself, is evidence that Wakefield’s best poems are a permanent addition to American letters.
   – David Middleton

Richard Wakefield crafts his verse to exacting standards yet keeps it uncontrived. Throughout A Vertical Mile, Wakefield shows us much about ourselves and the various worlds we inhabit, often of our own making. What he reveals may be sobering or amusing, uplifting or distressing. But, carried by a voice as versatile as the intelligence behind it, it is sure to surprise and delight us as well.
   – David Sanders (from the “Foreword”)

Richard Wakefield writes with a rare metrical skill that calls to mind the poetry of Robert Frost, and like Frost he tells intricate and compelling stories about ordinary people living close to the land. But there’s nothing nostalgic here. There’s compassion, and decency, but never an easy answer. Wakefield’s choice of conventional form is a wry and subtle comment on the contemporary moment, and his mastery of that form raises his work above all the chaos and fads. No, these poems are not nostalgic. They are timeless.
   – Chris Anderson

The arc of discovery is what one traverses in Richard Wakefield’s poetry. It may be a remembered seascape made new by the dust of familial ashes or a lost town, covered by a century of a forest’s reclaiming growth. As a poet of the outdoors—one who sees and, seeing, makes new what he has seen—Wakefield is unsurpassed.
   – R.S. Gwynn

In May’s debut collection, poems buzz and purr like a well-oiled chassis. Grit, trial, and song thrum through tight syntax and deft prosody. From the resilient pulse of an abandoned machine to the sinuous lament of origami animals, here is the ever-changing hum that vibrates through us all, connecting one mind to the next.

“Linguistically acrobatic [and] beautifully crafted. . . [Jamaal May's] poems, exquisitely balanced by a sharp intelligence mixed with earnestness, makes his debut a marvel.” —Publishers Weekly

“The elegant and laconic intelligence in these poems, their skepticism and bent humor and deliberately anti-Romantic stance toward experience are completely refreshing. After so much contemporary writing that seems all flash, no mind and no heart, these poems show how close observation of the world and a gift for plain-spoken, but eloquent speech, can give to poetry both dignity and largeness of purpose, and do it in an idiom that is pitch perfect to emotional nuance and fine intellectual distinctions. Hard-headed and tough-minded, Hum is the epitome of what Frost meant by ‘a fresh look and a fresh listen.’” —Tom Sleigh

"Jamaal May’s debut collection, Hum, is concerned with what’s beneath the surfaces of things—the unseen that eats away at us or does the work of sustaining us. Reading these poems, I was reminded of Ellison’s ‘lower frequencies,’ a voice speaking for us all. May has a fine ear, acutely attuned to the sonic textures of everyday experience. And Hum—a meditation on the machinery of living, an extended ode to sound and silence—is a compelling debut.” —Natasha Trethewey

"In his percussive debut collection Hum, Jamaal May offers a salve for our phobias and restores the sublime to the urban landscape. Whether you need a friend to confide in, a healer to go to, or a tour guide to take you there, look no further. That low hum you hear are these poems, emanating both wisdom and swagger.” —A. Van Jordan

From "Mechanophobia: Fear of Machines":

There is no work left for the husks.
Automated welders like us,
your line replacements, can't expect
sympathy after our bright
arms of cable rust over. So come

collect us for scrap, grind us up
in the mouth of one of us.
Let your hand pry at the access
panel with the edge of a knife,
silencing the motor and thrum.


Jamaal May is a poet, editor, and filmmaker from Detroit, MI where he taught poetry in public schools and worked as a freelance audio engineer and touring performer. His poetry won the 2013 Indiana Review Poetry Prize and appears in journals such as Poetry, Ploughshares, The Believer, NER, and The Kenyon Review. Jamaal has earned an MFA from Warren Wilson College as well as fellowships from Cave Canem and The Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. He founded the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Press.


In the early 1970s, Laura Bauer decides to leave college and head fifty miles north of her comfortable Atlanta home to manage a federally funded project aiding pregnant teenagers from the back roads of Appalachia. Almost as young as her clients, Laura is immediately confronted with—and almost overwhelmed by—a variety of young women in desperate circumstances, having no other source of prenatal care. When Nighttime Shadows Fall, Diane Michael Cantor’s second novel, portrays the world of these girls with compassion, hardscrabble humor, and reverence for their families’ capacities to prevail despite hardships. Among the characters are Mavis, a defiant, tough-as-nails preacher’s daughter; Lisa, a victimized thirteen-year-old; Nell, a shy girl who is constantly berated by herdomineering mother; and self-conscious Mandy, whose proud husband, twice her age, detests any form of charity. As an outsider whose urban upbringing is vastly different from those of her clients, Laura must win their trust and overcome her own inexperience and the magnitude of the need she finds. The novel follows Laura as she struggles to locate her clients during their first trimesters, when they are still eligible for the project’s services but often trying to conceal their pregnancies. As she overcomes their suspicions and tries to help them during those first critical months, Laura comes to realize she has prepared at least a few of them to open doors to their unexpected futures, just as they have helped her find the determination to face her own.
When Nighttime Shadows Fall movingly portrays Laura’s clients as they search for love from boyfriends, husbands, and babies. Some find it, but ultimately, through powerful revelations, their strength comes from within.
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