The high quality small press publisher, Adastra Press, has just published a new book by the poet, David Giannini, entitled AZ Two: Words of Travel. The book is an excellent example of fine quality, handset publishing. The edition is limited to 220 copies, is "handset Monotype Garamond type, letterpress printed on archival quality Mohawk Superfine text, handsewn with a Classic Laid Duplex recycled cover and illustrated with Sinagua Indian designs and petroglyphs, printed in different hand-mixed colors."
Yes, this is small press publishing surviving and thriving in the 21st century with beauty, class, and lyrical resonance.
The publisher describes the poems as a suite of 25 inspired by the Sedona, Arizona area and the Sinagua Indian culture that once resided there and eventually disappeared. As a set, the poems have the feel of a lyrical travel journal, recounting the visitors encounter with the land and the spirit it emanates. It opens with an invocation that honors that:
------Dawn hills black
take on sky rouge and pink
---keep it all day in rock
----at dusk give it back
Inevitably, Giannini touches on the meeting of cultures, the lost Sinagua and today's modern desert migration and its attendant incursions. Here though what may be, and indeed in later poems is, portrayed as a clash is rendered as transcendence:
Feel of the DesertWe walk into silence
in this air
Breath with breath
hand in hand
Who can prove
we are not the spirits
we move through?
Each word precisely put, step-by-step, as the poet/narrator moves we feel a presence, within and without. In the following, Giannini again senses something beyond the ordinary, perhaps just an elderly, confused man or a spirit of an age long gone, yet psychically contiguous:
---A Sound Inside the RainThe rasp of something
—owning very little—
--perhaps an old man
-----filing the edge
--of his voice, wanting
----and be received
Outside the rain, inside the rain. What resonates here, makes me think ghost, really - it is the name Sinagua, the name of the tribe that survived for so many years in the desert, the name which means "without water."
Perhaps something of a maxim, the following truly captures the dovetailing of cultures, together but forever separate, feeding each other: a model of nature itself -
Indians Selling TurquoiseThe higher
"Wupatki" captures a very similar feeling in a much different way:
I often ask life-long learners I instruct and in the library discussion group I'm a part of "where does the poem turn," and, in this case, it literally pirouettes on the word abandon, divided into its syllabic essences for emphasis. But as in "Indians Selling Turquoise" both cultures are touched here and it isn't just the easy dismissal of our modern culture, which literally and metaphysically knows how to abandon everything. The site has abandoned the seers and if that doesn't resonant, nothing in this world ever will.
The syllabic break (or perhaps true hyphenation, since "site-seers" perfectly stands in for the more common "sightseers") of "site-seers" is almost percussive, like the boom of the firework after the light.
Here is a great example of the form being dictated by the content, no mere structural gimmick from the poets sack of illusions.
As a set, there is something redemptive blended with the melancholy here, making AZ Two a great addition to any small press collection of high quality poetry. An earlier edition of the book, published by John Martone's excellent tel-let press, is available in pdf form online; the sequencing of the earlier edition is different than this print edition, something I'm sure the poet did not do lightly. The physical book is available via Small Press Distribution (1-800-869-7553), amazon and directly from the publisher at:
16 Reservation Road
Easthampton, MA 01027
The price from the publisher is $18.00, plus $2.50 for shipping. Of course, there are copies available at abebooks and amazon at a reduced rate. As a matter of policy, I've made it a point not to direct people to amazon, but for a book like this exceptions are made.
Do remember, supporting a small press publisher like Adastra directly, which might cost you a couple of bucks more, yields untold benefits as it echoes on through the culture for years to come.
Just saying ...
PS If you are a small press publisher or poet and would like to have your poetry collection (chapbook or book) considered for review or notice on Issa's Untidy Hut, feel free to send a review copy along to the Lilliput Review address. Of course, there is no guarantee it will be reviewed or noted on the blog. Review chances increase exponentially if the poetry is in my area of expertise : the short poem. Collections by poets published in Lillie are always welcome.