Things Seen by Joseph Stanton
Things Seen by Joseph Stanton
Finalist, Brick Road Poetry Prize
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Paperback: 140 pages
Publisher: Brick Road Poetry Press (March 23, 2016)
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
Shipping Weight: 9 ounces
Advance Praise for Things Seen by Joseph Stanton
Poet Joseph Stanton puts me in mind of those Chinese court literati of the Ming and Sung dynasties who were not simply scholars, but were also expected to compose and recite poetry and to be connoisseurs and philosophers of art, of all arts. What a range is in these one hundred pages, reflecting interests he has long explored in his work, from the questions of what an artist sees and how a painting or art object means, to the moonlit and irredeemably haunted landscape of Noh drama, to the atmosphere and timeless moments of the game of baseball. And what diverse artists he has accompanied into their works—Gauguin, Gorey, Zeshin—giving his attention and language to what they see and what he sees so that we might see, too. He devotes one whole section to the life and vision of an old favorite, Edward Hopper. “Mostly Grimm”—poems based on well- and lesser-known tales—is well named, because Stanton’s often playful reimagining refreshes the classic themes and images. Although Stanton has often written directly about baseball, the poems of the final section “Painting the Corners” are particularly interesting because of their several layers and removes. Here the poet/artist notices how the artist sees as he in turn captures fleeting scenes from the art of baseball. Poet and artist have become inseparable in this collection.
—Sue Cowing, author of Call Me Drog
Joseph Stanton is a poet of the visual. He willingly and often joyously assumes the ekphrastic stance, his poems moving seamlessly from an interpretation of Paul Gauguin’s powerful Vision After the Sermon, in which Jacob grapples with an angel, to a series of poems exploring the alienated world of the twentieth century painter Edward Hopper with its emerging complexities and its journey into the dichotomies of the urban and the rural, the internal and the external. Through the revelatory lens of Things Seen, Stanton observes the Noh theater tradition, analyzes the Brothers Grimm, and finalizes the collection with a series of observations about baseball as interpreted by paintings, his focus on America’s favorite pastime illustrated with an exciting series of engagements. As eclectic as his varied subject matter may be, the basic theme of these meticulously wrought poems remains the same—vision—the act of creative seeing. In the Noh Variations poem “Aya no Tsuzumi,” he writes, “I have spent my soul/on a glimpse of moon/through bare branches.” This richly visual collection turns on Stanton’s masterful transliteration of image after image into the essence of its own perceived light.
—Laverne and Carol Frith, editors of Ekphrasis
Joseph Stanton’s tone knows his own “deft, ungraspable self.” The wit in this last line from a poem about Gauguin’s Vision After the Sermon, washes through Things Seen with the humility, intelligence and will to have serious fun with famous art—paintings, Grimm tales, noh plays—treated as living experience.
—Paul Nelson, author of Burning the Furniture
Joseph Stanton’s Things Seen is one of the great books of poetry this year that probably will not get the attention it deserves, though I hope my sheer delight might conspire otherwise. His is a major voice and these poems artifacts of an exquisite musical craftsman possessed of a generosity of vision and a special quality of attention that transforms art into being. As the poem about Paul Gauguin’s “Vision After the Sermon” offers us, “a roseate window” in which the story “gleams for all to see; / my struggle to know, my difficult wrestling / with that indefatigable god—/ my deft, ungraspable self.” Things Seen is divided into five discrete sections—ekphrasis that gives fresh insight into that timeless practice; reinventions of fairy tales that remake the Prince Frog, The Fir Apple, Godfather Death and leave us the Shepherd Boy to calculate the universe; Noh variations that demonstrate why that word is derived from the Japanese word for “skill”; a series on Edward Hopper that intertwines his art and life; and deft poems about paintings about baseball—and yet by the end the sections feel as triumphantly cohesive as the movements in a symphony. “Things Seen” offers us the poet at the height of perception and the skills of conjuration.
—Ravi Shankar, founding editor of Drunken Boat and author of What Else Could It Be
It’s always a pleasure to encounter a Joseph Stanton poem, and over the years I’ve had an opportunity to experience firsthand his remarkable growth as a writer. Things Seen takes us to a new level in that growth, demonstrating that the latitudes and heights of his voice continue to expand. “The drift of the unseen song / is what the evening means,” he writes in “Thomas Dewing’s The Hermit Thrush.” Immersing us in the unseen song is the intent of these poems—and to a singular extent, what Stanton has achieved. A rich, rich collection!
—George Wallace, editor of Poetry Bay and The Long Island Quarterly