A Map of the Winds
120 pages: $15.00
“Write me a poem/called a map of the winds,” asks Mark Statman’s son. Knowing he can’t, Statman writes one instead about father and son, about belief and Brooklyn. In this new poetry collection, Statman investigates what it means to look at the world, to live in the world, and to wonder about it in ways that are at once speculative and specific. Whether traveling (England, South America, Italy, across the United States) or being at home, this practice of looking closely and imagining, translates into poems that are spare and descriptive (“concentrated and bare as any poetry,” writes David Shapiro). At once direct and elusive, these poems show how the closer Statman gets to understanding what he sees, what results is the realization that he has not seen enough, perhaps not at all, yielding another investigation, another series of imperative questions.
A Map of the Winds is a lovely book, filled with moments of ordinary perception given uncommon attention. Sung through a register of gentle if unrelenting consciousness on the part of the poet that the present is always inexhaustibly on the move, Statman’s spare, concise, searching poems channel notations of experience through the visual and aural senses to frame and extend “voice that stands for voice / captures what I want and need / not resemblance”. That necessary sense of voicing-as-one-goes in order to handle uncertainty as a point of thematic variation finds its ground in an expansive set of locations: Brooklyn, Mexico, Colombia, the Catskill Mountains. And always at once the recognition and curiosity of “language again giving him / a place for the world”.
How delightfully apt that A Map of the Winds is “a gift” from Mark Statman’s son, or is it Statman’s gift to his son? Such are the riddles tenderly offered us in this book, koans with duende that befit the international scope of a consummate poet-translator. His voice brings together historical awareness with mindful surrender to the present moment (that sometime calls back memories from the psyche’s depths). Whether the observer is with his wife or son, bird-watching in a cottage, or on the streets of Brooklyn or Bogota, Mark Statman’s lines are maps of the wind that carry us into wonder and love.
Plain-spoken and direct, Mark Statman’s poems “make it new.” They reach our common core, where they find beauty and they find song.
Statman’s legit. And honest. He doesn’t try to impress with literary tricks and sleight of hand. Just good, solid poetry that keeps getting better.
Mark Statman deliver’s the tourist’s wonder and distance in spare, deliberate music—American poetry’s grand plain style descended from William Carlos Williams and James Schuyler—Statman is a head-on poet willing to risk clarity in pursuit of the marvelous we might encounter anywhere.
Mark Statman is a poet who has mastered the difficult craft of transparency — you look through his poems into the world, a world sometimes luminous, sometimes dark, but always accompanied with a sense of astonishment and grace. Statman’s voice is a kind of spare lyricism that reminds me of the ancient Greek poets of the Anthology or the concise voicings of Antonio Machado. There are no flourishes or frills to this kind of writing, no gilding or ornamentation:
the poem travels in strange ways
Many of the poems in A Map of Winds are concerned with human connections and relationships, between the self and the world, father and son, lovers, neighbors, strangers. There is as well what Seamus Heaney calls “the shape-making impulse, the emergence and convergence into a wholeness.” Statman’s vision is embracive and celebratory. His is the kind of poetry that concerns itself with how to live a thoughtful, responsible, and clear life, the kind of poetry we need to have.
Mark Statman’s recent books are Tourist at a Miracle (Hanging Loose, 2010), poetry, the translations Black Tulips: The Selected Poems of José María Hinojosa (University of New Orleans, 2012) and, with Pablo Medina, of García Lorca’s Poet in New York (Grove 2008). An Associate Professor of Literary Studies at Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts, he has received a number of awards and fellowships from, among others, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Writers Project, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. His work has appeared in nine anthologies, and such publications as Tin House, Hanging Loose, South Dakota Review and APR.
Buy direct from Lavender Ink: