110 pages: $16.00
In Because the Stars Shine Through It, we have an original. Geoff Munsterman has lived and written his way, but always with the shadows, ghosts and energy of the place he comes from. Trauma and joy, and a profoundly unsettling melancholy, run through these poems of vernacular fused with a personal interior language. At once wry and matter-of-fact, Munsterman can register pathos and deadly insight into the contradictions of his social environment, his friends, neighbours, family and self. In painting what can be a harsh truth, a strangely beautiful honesty emerges in which the coast, the river, the distance to Baton Rouge and back, and the horror of oil, meld with characters who live in their positives and negatives. Munsterman’s complex picture of place is painted with precision and clarity. We should loudly celebrate this poet of depth and sensitivity, who paints portraits and landscapes that reflect on us all. This is a life-poet, and a poet for all our lives.
–John Kinsella, author of The New Arcadia (W.W. Norton)
Geoff Munsterman’s poetry is visceral and robust. It gives life to a region of hard-scrabble human richness registered in his supple and often gritty lines. I found myself repeatedly surprised and moved and sometimes even unnerved.
–David H. Lynn, Editor of The Kenyon Review
Forget the moonlight and magnolias: in this young Southerner’s poems, densely textured and drunk with language, men work punishing jobs along the violent Mississippi River and the “petroleum-ruined Gulf” until they drown or their hearts burst. Fishermen dredge up body parts; the young “escape” to Iraq and come back in caskets or with “space-age limbs.” Belle Chasse, Louisiana, has produced the bard who will sing its bridges, tunnel, oil refineries, graves, and orange groves into myth and history.
–Julie Kane, Louisiana Poet Laureate (2011-2013) and author of Jazz Funeral (Story Line Press)
A journey into the words of Geoff Munsterman is a trip into the real and the beauty to be found down every Louisiana tributary. A poetic portrait of the treasure puzzle that is the soul. This is a literary voice that honors the American language. Munsterman weaves pain, the eye of the heart and the raw simple power of life into word art. Here is a poet.
–Chris Champagne, author of The Yat Dictionary and Roach Opera
This rich, nuanced collection makes me nostalgic for a place I’ve never been—Belle Chasse, LA—where fishermen reel in human jaws and river pilot uncles work the spill and “township limit signs mock our effort.” What a gorgeous evocation of place, and the characters that haunt the levee, drink the chicory coffee “thick enough to walk across,” endure “good times tightening like koozies over beers.” Because the Stars Shine Through It is both elegy and paean, and we are richer because it’s in the world.
–Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Unmentionables (W.W. Norton)
Dear ghosts of Belle Chasse and New Orleans, dear elder and adolescent ghosts, dear ghosts of drowned dreams, you have here your poet. “Never let the ghosts pass through/ you without saying hello,” Geoff Munsterman advises. But being on such speaking terms with ghosts doesn’t come easy: there’s a steep price for such access, for being the commander and sole guardsman of “Operation Bring the Dead Home.” Post-Katrina, post-BP realities have rarely been evoked so precisely, so exactingly, and so gracefully as in these lyrics and long poems. (Of the long poems, “Tunnel” surely ranks as an early 21st century masterpiece.) The poems gain wisdom (“If surviving was easy/ everyone would do it”), and the capacity to amplify earthly joy in celebrating Creole tomatoes, “stewed rabbit/& carrots & persimmons in a pan,” the pleasures of friendship and place. In all its grief and ecstasies, this is the book our ghosts have been waiting for.
–Brad Richard, author of Butcher’s Sugar (Sibling Rivalry)
Poet Ted Berrigan once said ‘baffling combinations are everywhere downriver’ and right you are Ted! The Mississippi River drains two-thirds of the North American continent and one of the prime treasures of this region today are the writs of poet Geoff Munsterman—an aletheiast in the truest sense of the word (see aletheia, Greek), a truth-sayer whose poems erupt fiercely and majestically from the bayous and trenasses of Plaquemines and Orleans Parishes like so many Cypress tree knees from the primordial soup of Geoff’s beautifully accursed Ville Fatale! There is reverence and forbiddeness in this earthly paradise which truly only few bards equal to Geoff’s grit, or even perhaps Geoff’s Pearly Gate Doppelgänger, have ever been able to bring home. Stand and be counted y’all! Fill your pirogues and airboats with only the most premium port wine, The Party is on! Poet Geoff Munsterman has held on to the push-pole of our bare existence like the ghost of Charon behind the wheel of The Great Skiff, plying the shadows of these almighty worlds for all of us indeed! Here, here Cher!
–Dave Brinks, author of The Caveat Onus and The Secret Brain (Black Widow Press)