Page 32: Short Takes on Five New Vermont Books | Books | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published January 10, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated January 12, 2018 at 11:33 a.m.


Seven Days writers can't possibly read, much less review, all the books that arrive in a steady stream by post, email and, in one memorable case, a colony of penguins. So this monthly feature is our way of introducing you to five books by Vermont authors. To do that, we contextualize each book just a little and quote a single representative sentence from, yes, page 32.

Inclusion here implies neither approval nor derision on our part, but simply: Here are a bunch of books, arranged alphabetically by authors' names, that Seven Days readers might like to know about.

Selected Delanty

Poems and translations by Greg Delanty, chosen by Archie Burnett, Un-Gyve Press, 244 pages, $19.

The alarming, silhouetted bird
has a preternatural quality
as it flutters about
my head, drawing me
from sleep's underworld.
(from "The Splinters")

Poet-in-residence at Saint Michael's College, Greg Delanty is Irish and American, and that status has significance beyond conferring dual citizenship. While he splits his time physically between Ireland and the U.S. — specifically Vermont — Delanty infuses his poems with the slang, rhythms and insider sensibility of both places. More than a dozen published collections illustrate the effectiveness of his energetic language, the through line of old world and new. For this volume, Boston University English professor Archie Burnett has culled poems from 10 of Delanty's previous collections, as well as a few translations. They hew to the themes of nature, politics, intimate observations and transitions. Most often the poems, as Burnett writes in his introduction, "emerge humanely on the side of decency and hope."

— P.P.

Horse-Drawn Yogurt: Stories From Total Loss Farm

Peter Gould, Green Writers Press, 212 pages, $19.95 paperback.

It was 1970, and communes had begun to poke up everywhere, like skunk cabbage in springtime.

Brattleboro writer, performer and musician Peter Gould first blew into the farm/commune at Packer Corner late one summer night in 1968. In this patchwork collection of stories, poems, drawings and recipes, Gould describes his arrival in Guilford as the outcome of a pivotal choice. Either he would get in the car to join the rioting fray at Chicago's Democratic Convention, or get in the car to find "the Farm" using a hand-drawn map from his sister.

Gould's heartfelt account of option No. 2 is warmly written; it feels as if you're right with him at, say, the kitchen table or the woodpile. In a soft but not lighthearted tone, he recollects the personal and collective pains that drew him back to the land, drawing parallels to current upheavals in American politics, and writing in the second person to drive these connections home.

Some of the stories are taken from the commune's fresh, youthful days, like those originally published in Gould's 1972 autobiographical "commune book" Burnt Toast. Others are recollections penned more recently. Together, they make for an intimate, thoughtful contribution to the history of a vital cultural moment, in both Vermont and the nation at large.

— R.E.J.

Earth Striders

Kathleen McKinley Harris, Finishing Line Press, 46 pages, $14.99.

The fall finally he went deer hunting, a bear
chased him across an open field
and he thought he was a goner for sure
until he came to a summer camp, dove headfirst
through a window.

With titles that evoke farming, horses and wildlife, these poems by Kathleen McKinley Harris transport readers into a childhood of wonder and adventure amid everyday life in rural Vermont. In "Bear Fear" (excerpted above), the protagonist's imagination, fueled by tales of bear encounters, builds to such a feverish pitch that the sighting of a true bear is anticlimactic and disorienting. "Winter Afternoon" captures riding in a horse-drawn sleigh so completely that one can almost see the horse's breath and hear the clomp of hooves. In "Horse Trading," the way news of a shady financial transaction travels from one person to another conjures a town-wide game of telephone. An editor and former teacher, Harris has been writing poetry and prose for more than 30 years, and her works have appeared in publications such as Vermont Life and Snowy Egret, a long-standing journal of nature writing. In this collection of poems — many set in Hyde Park or Stowe — Harris recounts her youth with playful, wistful zeal.

— E.M.S.

Aging With Wisdom: Reflections, Stories & Teachings

Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle, Monkfish Book Publishing, 224 pages, $16.95.

With his observation about "slowth," with its faint echo with the word "sloth" (indeed, sloths go very slowly), I realized how much we were now living in differenttime zones.

Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle brings to her subject a lifetime of experience — including her own aging process and that of her husband, who spent his last years navigating Alzheimer's disease. A psychologist, teacher and practicing Buddhist, Hoblitzelle developed one of the first mind/body medicine programs in the U.S. She champions the ideas, common in Asian and indigenous cultures, that one's elder years are a time for reflection and deepening spirituality — and that elders deserve respect and compassion. Conversely, Hoblitzelle rejects the ageism of Western society and offers, using role models she calls "wayshowers," guidelines for a mindful, graceful and even playful passage through life's final chapter.

— P.P.

Untimely RIPped

L.E. Smith, Fomite, 244 pages, $15.

He's having a Facebook minute, which is more like an hour and less than engaging on an intellectual level.

When we meet teenage Marvin Herkimer, the narrator of this third novel from Brookfield author L.E. Smith, he's already hanged himself in his prep school dorm room with a school tie. "It was just easy," he tells us with the casual confessionalism of the Twitter generation. But is anything that simple? Smith's novel takes us on a flashback tour of the events leading to Marvin's demise, including a road trip through a landscape of scary rednecks, seductive cougars and cockeyed collectivists. Though Marvin declares that Holden Caulfield "[doesn't] rate," he often reads like a self-conscious updating of J.D. Salinger's mouthy hero. Smith conveys the kid's addled sense of self using neologisms of the kind you usually find only on Urban Dictionary: "calculasms," "genderalities," "Googleheimer." While the prose has other stylistic quirks that slow the reader down, Smith's playful linguistic inventiveness makes Marvin one of the livelier literary stiffs you'll ever meet.

— M.H.