Mirror Image. Len Gasparini. Essential Poet Series 209. Guernica Editions. Toronto - Buffalo - Lancaster(U.K.). 2014.
I first discovered Len Gasparini in 1976 when rummaging through stack of used books in a ramshackle barbershop near the Ford plant I worked at in Windsor. I was writing poems and had published in a few small magazines and journals but I was still a couple of years away from my first book.
Gasparini was a liberating and inspirational find. Here was a poet whose straight ahead no bullshit persona came jumping off of the page and grabbed me by the collar. I liked Gasparini right out of the gate and have been a big fan ever since.
Early this morning I sent Milo, our head tech, into the stacks to see what he could find by Gasparini, this is what he came back with:
21 X 3 - with Dorothy Farmiloe/Eugene McNamara, The Gryphon Press, 1967
Cutty Sark - The Quarry Press, 1970
Tunnel Bus to Detroit - Fiddlehead Poetry, 1971
Pelee Island - Thistle Printing, 1972
The Somniloquist - Fiddlehead Poetry, 1972
One Bullet Left - Alive Press, 1974
If You Love - Borealis Press, 1975
Moon Without Light - York Publishing, 1978
Breaking and Entering, New and Selected Poems - Mosaic Press/Valley Editions, 1980
Ink from an Octopus - Hounslow Press, 1989
I Once Had a Pet Praying Mantis - Mosaic Press,1995
A Canadian In Dixie - Lyrical Myrical, 2003
Leftover Love to Kill - Lyrical Myrical, 2004
Turns out this is only a portion of his output.
Today's book of poetry cannot begin to tell you how thrilled we were to see Gasparini's Mirror Image come through the door. Len Gasparini has been a big hero of ours for almost forty years. Today's book of poetry was reading poems by Gasparini before Bukowski, before Purdy, Carver, Ross, any of it. I thought Len Gasparini was the original gangster poet.
This first poem comes from a longer sequence of poems, "Memories of the Rockin' Fifties" and encapsulates the feeling I had back in the Windsor of my youth when I first picked up a copy of One Bullet Left.
from Memories of the Rockin' Fifties
for Jim Christy
How summer day in the city.
On my way to a beach party
I stopped for cigarettes at a corner store.
A 35 cent Avon paperback, The Subterraneans,
by Jack Kerouac, caught my eye.
(The title sounded like sci-fi.)
I bought the book ... read passages
to my sunbathing pals drinking contraband beer.
When the party ended, it came
as no little surprise to see the beach
hadn't moved, the lake was still there;
but this cat wasn't.
Kerouac had turned me around.
I was never altogether the same after that.
The poetry of Len Gasparini is often clipped so short that you don't realize you've been rabbit punched. No wasted movement. Gasparini is a romantic of an old school of take no prisoners, that might include the ghosts of Raymond Chandler and Jim Harrison, maybe even Charles the B.
Mirror Image is two books in one. The first thirty pages are poetry and the remainder is prose. Odin, our newest staff member is working over the prose right now and I don't have the heart to tell him that prose is above our pay grade. Our mandate stops with the poetry. But what fine, crisp, clean poems these are.
for Patrick Lane
In a country that was founded
on the backs of fur-bearing animals
I once saw a stuffed adult cougar
at a trade show in Vancouver's BC Place.
It there is reincarnation,
metempsychosis, transmutation, or whatever,
I hope that I come back
as a cougar, Felis concolor,
solitary and nocturnal in the wilds
of northern British Columbia.
I will stalk, ambush, and stab
my sharp canines into the neck
of any motherfucking nimrod
who tries to hunt me down.
I'll eat my fill: feed my kittens:
and leave the rest for the ravens.
Gasparini has been publishing his honest and unfettered poetry with resolute consistency for the best part of fifty years. Today's book of poetry feels honoured to have him come through the door, for an opportunity to share his work.
Many of Gasparini's poems can be read as reportage sans resolution, these poems often raise more questions than answers. Today's book of poetry thinks Gasparini's modus operandi has always been the pulling back of the curtain to show the real world at work. That old over the rainbow trick from the Wizard of Oz.
Alone, with nowhere to go,
she stands on the corner
of some deserted intersection
late at night, waiting
for a traffic light.
Today's book of poetry has admired the poetry of Len Gasparini my entire adult life and is pleased to share his work with you. You're not going to like every poem in Gasparini's vast catalogue, no poet can pass that test, but all these years on Gasparini has never let me down.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born in Windsor, Ontario, Len Gasparini is the author of numerous books and chapbooks of poetry, five short-story collections, including The Snows of Yesteryear (2011), The Undertaker's Wife (,2007), and A Demon in My View (2003), which was translated into French as Nouvelle noirceur. He has also written two children’s books, a work of non-fiction, and a one-act play. In 1990, he was awarded the F.G. Bressani Literary Prize for poetry. In 2010, he won the NOW Open Poetry Stage event. Having lived in Montreal, Vancouver, New Orleans, and Washington State, he now divides his time between Toronto and his hometown. Mirror Image, his latest collection, combines poetry and prose.
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