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What Lightning Spoke: New and Selected Poems manifests “infinite ways” a childhood lightning strike gave the poet his calling, in poems that illuminate the paths of spirit in the world with the force of revelation.Read More
The poems in What Lightning Spoke, new and culled from six collections, take place in the U.S., Caribbean, Indigenous Americas, Europe, and Arabia. Around the globe, lightning strikes 44 times each second. With luck, a poet gets hit six or seven times in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, Randall Jarrell said. For Robert Bensen, once was a calling: “…when lightning branched and hooked in myriad brilliances streaming, / its rivers and rivulets flooded me with one idea: / in plain air, power makes infinite ways.” Shakespeare said lightning “unfolds both heaven and Earth.” Similarly, these poems manifest spirit in the world: in the child’s devotion to dance (“Two Dancers”), the privations of Alzheimer’s (“Quick Bright Things”), or a celebratory 50th-anniversary slog (“Rainforest”). They reveal forces deadly and vital: courage after injury (“Sonata for the Left Hand,” “1959”), fear following a terror attack (“At a Solemn Wind Ensemble”), greed for gold (“Orenoque”). In sundry guises—a 12th-Century Japanese princess, a girl in Trinidad, Eurydice, and others—the voices in these poems deal with gender, racism, genocide, teenage hormones, rabies vaccine, eagle-watching, home repair, and worse. Between the mundane and sublime, Robert Bensen’s lines illuminate with the force of revelation.
About the poet:
Robert Bensen was born in Joliet, Illinois, in 1947 and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. He is Professor Emeritus at Hartwick College (Oneonta, New York), where he taught and directed the writing programs for 39 years. His poetry has been published in six collections, and along with his non-fiction and literary essays has appeared in AGNI, Akwe:kon, Antioch Review, Berfrois, Callaloo, The Caribbean Writer, Jamaica Journal, La presa, Native Realities, The Paris Review, Partisan Review, Ploughshares, Poetry Wales, River Styx, Yankee Magazine, and elsewhere. He has edited anthologies of Native American and Caribbean literature and authored American Indian and Aboriginal Canadian Childhood Studies (Oxford University Press). His writing won a poetry fellowship from the NEA, research fellowships from the NEH and the Newberry Library, a shared Eric Hoffer Award, poetry awards from Harvard University, the New York State, Illinois Arts Council, the Robert Penn Warren Award, and others. He taught at Parkland College (Champaign, Illinois) and SUNY Oneonta. He founded the Red Herring Workshop and Press (Urbana, Illinois) and directs the Seeing Things Poetry Workshop at Bright Hill Press and Literary Center (Treadwell NY). He is the founding editor Woodland Arts Editions (Oneonta NY).
TO BE PUBLISHED IN 2022