BLUES IN THE NIGHT by Herb Coursen; Moon Pie Press, Westbrook, Maine, 2010; 74 pages, trade paperback, $10
“Blues in the Night” offers more well-wrought, crystalline verse by H.R. Coursen, one of Maine’s most capable lyric poets of the last few decades. His best works continue to be his sonnets, cast in heavily enjambed lines and disclosing all moods of Maine weather, personal recollections and political and social observations, with frequent disclosures of their literary ancestry (“Shall I compare thee to a winter storm?” the book playfully opens). The title, following a previous collection, “Blues in the Day,” points to a series of poems in the latter part of the book recapturing old-time blues history and emotions in well-handled blues rhythms.
Herb Coursen, who teaches Shakespeare for Southern New Hampshire University and taught for many years at Bowdoin College, has won a number of prizes on academic and literary circuits. His recent books of verse include “A World Elsewhere” and “Recall: New and Collected Poems.” “Blues in the Night” is available from Moon Pie Press, www.moonpiepress.com.
THE WIDE WORLD by V.G. Korolenko; translated from the Russian by Stanley Harrison; Xlibris Corp., 2010; 152 pages, trade paperback, $19.99; eBook $9.99
Vladimir Galaktionovich Korolenko was a Ukrainian-Russian journalist and political activist around the turn of the 20th century. His novels and short stories examined the lives of the poor and oppressed, and “The Wide World” published in 1895 (previously translated as “Without Language”) is the story of some Russian country bumpkins who, knowing no English and innocent of the ways of the wide world, make their way to America where they encounter all sorts of swindlers, helpers, cops and ne’er-do-wells, immigrant and native. “The Wide World” is solidly in the genre of late 19th-century social fiction and can make a good contrastive companion to readings in authors like Theodore Dreiser, as well as fill out your knowledge of the astonishing Russian tradition in fiction that includes Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Chekhov.
LAUGHS, LOVES AND LAMENTS: POEMS FOR HEARTS AND MINDS by Gerald Metz, 2010; 36 pages, saddle-stitched, $10
“Laughs, Loves and Laments” by Gerald Metz comprises about three-dozen poems in sections indicated in the table of contents, with three titled after the book title and a fourth, “Encore.” The laughs are light verse, including a one-page collection of “Blackfly Haiku,” a couple of pages of “Blackfly Limericks,” and “Woodenhead” on a gift shop experience. The rest of the book weaves through a range of highly personal topics and emotions, as well as observations on life, sometimes biting and sometimes poignant.
The sharpest language appears toward the end of the collection in “Tibbett Island, Maine” (“We come to wrap ourselves / in solitude, to turn the key / and shut the engine down”) and in “The Janitor,” an account of the author’s relationship with “the first poet I ever met,” a janitor at a university. Most of the verse in “Laughs, Loves and Laments” falls squarely into a range of self-expressive poetry widely written in postmodern America; indeed, it feels like many of these poems were probably an outlet, or even purgation, for the author of a wide variety of emotions.
Gerald Metz practiced ophthalmology for nearly 30 years in Bangor and now lives in Addison. “Laughs, Loves and Laments” is available at BookMarc’s in Bangor and the Gray Wolf Gallery in Addison.
PUCKERBRUSH REVIEW SUMMER-FALL 2010, edited by Sanford Phippen; Puckerbush Press Inc. and the University of Maine English department, Orono, Maine, 2010; 148 pages, large format perfect bound, $10
Sanford Phippen, much to the credit of his generosity of time and spirit, has churned out yet another issue of Puckerbrush Review, the small literary magazine founded in the 1970s by poet and UMaine professor Constance Hunting, who died in 2006.
The current edition is dedicated to the memory of former UMaine professor Edward M. “Ted” Holmes, who died this past July, two months shy of his 100th birthday. UM English department students will remember Holmes as an instructor or, arriving later, will have heard legendary stories of his gift for teaching and writing. Two recollections of Holmes, by Phippen and Shirley Glubka, are included in the magazine.
This issue features reviews and a story by Sorrento native Sturgis Haskins, including a brief biography of him, and there’s an interview with midcoast literary eminence Gary Lawless along with the usual copious offerings of poems, short stories, essays and reviews with bylines familiar and unfamiliar to local readers, including Carl Little, Farnham Blair, Leonore Hildebrandt, Patricia Ranzoni, Hugh Curran and Sandra Lynn Hutchison, among many others.
Copies are available by contacting Puckerbrush Press at 866-4868 or www.puckerbrush-press.com.