Moonbook and Sunbook
by Willis Barnstone
“The book is a tour de force of sonnets, an exciting elaboration and revitalization of the form. Again and again, we meet our old sonnet friend, and it takes us a minute to recognize him… We are lucky, through these poems, to enter into a cosmic vision of life that embraces joy and sorrow, flesh and spirit, human and divine.” — David Lee Garrison
“The book is a tour de force of sonnets, an exciting elaboration and revitalization of the form. Again and again, we meet our old sonnet friend, and it takes us a minute to recognize him… We are lucky, through these poems, to enter into a cosmic vision of life that embraces joy and sorrow, flesh and spirit, human and divine.” — David Lee Garrison, New Letters
“Willis Barnstone’s Moonbook and Sunbook is a magical affirmation of our human presence in the vast expanse of the universe. In this book, Barnstone proves that as lowly humans contemplating those cosmic bodies nearest to us—the sun and the moon—we may find an energy that feeds the human hunger for meaning in the face of death. In this extended meditation upon solar and lunar complexities, we are invited to merge the wonder of the self with the even greater enigma of the universe, and by doing so, to transcend the human condition.” — Sonja James, The Journal of West Virginia
Willis Barnstone’s new volume of poetry offers two sequences paired, pivoting on lunar and solar consciousness and comprised mostly of multiplying sonnets, two per page and mirrored typographically across the page-spreads. Elegant in erudition but always fluently conversational, this book is an homage to the poet’s father and moving proof of an astonishingly productive life in letters.
“Willis Barnstone’s new book is a magnetic miracle that draws the solar and lunar magic of his immense learning into the space of marvelous poems. His language joins the mysteries of the sky with the enigmas of the heart in a music unmistakably his own.” — Andrei Codrescu
“Four of the best things in America are Walt Whitman’s Leaves, Herman Melville’s Whales, the Sonnets of Barnstone’s Secret Reader … and my daily Corn Flakes—that rough poetry of morning.” —Jorge Luis Borges
“(Barnstone’s) thought is of course the core, but with it come tones and over-tones, undertones even, from the poets whom he has so brilliantly, so sensitively translated from many languages. Their voices are there with his, with the poet who has such an ear for language that no subtlety escapes it.” —James Laughlin
“Barnstone has been appointed a special angel to bring ‘the other’ to our attention … He illuminates the spirit for us, and he clarifies the unclarifiable … I think he does it by beating his wings.” —Gerald Stern
While you are lowered in the clay
we weep under the summer sun.
The rocking of the coffin done,
our meager party goes away.
You leave so quickly for the night
almost no one on the great earth
observes the moment of your death.
We few who knew your quiet light
try to remember, yet forget,
and neither memory nor talk
will bring you sun once it has set.
Your life was brief—a morning walk.
We whom you loved still feel an O
of horrid absence in Maine snow.
No Smoke but Sun in Lungs
Even in London and dark poison smog,
between drizzles I like to walk in sun
and count my friends and with the poets jog
along the Thames to catch the Cockney puns
or Macbeth’s howl far as the Isle of Skye
and Inner Hebrides. The sun goes where
there’s life, even sunk in the soggy sky
of human lungs. Today, as if All Clear!
had just rung out, the nurse says you will live
tomorrow, so forget the hearse, you’re clean,
the X-ray of your right lung negative
except for scarring. Goodbye to old Dance
of Death who beckons kings and cocks, the mean
and kind, to wear the same headdress of trance
and shade. Blake comes for tea with his bright key,
opens all coffins & sets us children free.
Sunday Morning in Fascist Spain, 1951
We motorbike through Spain of Isabel
la Católica and Franco el toro
de la muerte and iron hand. The belle
of our farm house, the eyes of tomorrow,
is Soledad, who is ten, blond, sigh-eyed,
lovely. Her dad killed a guardia civil,
a tricorne hat with leather soul. He fled
and she’s an orphan. She lives on the hill
where the Carthaginian cemetery
cabins the poorest of our village. She
hangs out with us. Justo the Gypsy sledge-
hammers the highway black and strums
his sea-guitar carnation white. Our ledge
is Roman pink rhapsodic by March plums.
Andalusia! Most of her grand poets die,
flee, yet Lorca’s moons glare in a child’s eye.