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Anniversary
June 2010


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Shy White Tiger
June 2013


Quiet in a Quiet House

Richard W. Halperin

ISBN: 978-1-910669-20-4

Page Count: 80

Publication Date: Monday, January 11, 2016

Cover Artwork: Jessie Lendennie. Design: Siobhan Hutson

Click to play audio Richard W. Halperin reads the title poem from Quie... play
Click to play audio Richard W. Halperin reads "Gardenis" from Quiet in... play
Click to play audio Richard W. Halperin reads "What she's doing there"... play

About this Book

Quiet in a Quiet House is a collection of poems about people and places no longer here. The landscape, whether Ireland, Italy, France, Japan, is characterised by quiet – interrupted at points by keening, by gales of laughter, by rants. Memory cuts both ways, past and future. People are depicted as souls – as in these lines about a woman shoring herself up to enter her own house: ‘Not polite to barge in, but:/there’s the step, there’s the door. It has to/be done. It’s like eating a small cake,/courage. She enters, her dog at her side,/sunshine at her back, and deep shade.’

 


Richard W. Halperin’s uniquely conversational poetic mode is known to those who have followed his ‘late arrival’ beginning with the seminal Anniversary (2010, Salmon Poetry).

 

Quiet in a Quiet House is his third book, and could be read as the final part of a trilogy and yet the book cuts its own clear measure. Modestly titled, yet profound in its created spaces, trawling and pitch, it appears to have a root in Gaston Bachelard’s observation of the house sheltering day-dreaming, imagination and ultimately, in a Quiet House, allowing one to dream in peace.

 

Halperin’s concerns are also with the inhabitants of these encountered spaces, ‘I happening back like a thief now’ from closest Samoa to furthest Chelmsford. Throughout there is the echo of ‘In my father’s house there are many rooms.’

 Like all great artists, Halperin makes no distinction between the living and the dead. He metronomes between the two, making a music that leaves us enriched and stopped in our tracks.

 


 ‘A word with you,’ the stranger said

 who came up to me on the street

 But I had no word, the house was empty.

 


Joseph Woods


Author Biography

Richard W. Halperin, an Irish/U.S. dual-national, is widely published in journals and magazines in Ireland and the U.K. His first-prize poem ‘Snow Falling, Lady Murasaki Watching’ is on permanent display in the Hawk’s Well Theatre, Sligo. The collections Shy White Tiger and Anniversary, respectively 2013 and 2010, are published by Salmon. The latter book appeared in Japanese translation in 2012 (Kindaibungei-sha Press, Tokyo), and has recently been translated into French under the title Présence. Four chapbooks have been published by Lapwing, Belfast, the latest entitled Blue Flower. Mr Halperin debuted as a reader in 2006 at Glenstal Abbey and at Glencree Centre for Reconciliation, and has since read at most major venues in Ireland. He has begun giving bilingual readings in Paris, where he lives. Before retirement from humanitarian work in 2005, he was chief of section for teacher education, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. There he edited Reading and Writing Poetry: The Recommendations of Noted Poets from Many Lands on the Teaching of Poetry in Secondary Schools (UNESCO, Paris, 2005), downloadable gratis from the internet in English, French and Spanish. Mr Halperin holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from the City University of New York.


Read a sample from this book

The Animals All Knew, Without Saying

 

Quiet in a quiet house is a good thing.

Panic at quiet in a quiet house is a

Leaper – to the mouth, hand leaping to the mouth

To stuff the panic back. 


Quiet in a quiet house is a heart pounding,

Is the doppelgänger in the mirror, is

The other Tristan, Iseult nowhere where

She should be which is why the house is quiet.


It’s Christmas Eve. Snow outside falls softly.

Negative ions are good things, Science says,

Negative ions are good things. My ears pop

As if I’m in a plane, and I am in the eye

 

Of quiet. The ear adjusts, like a cowed dog.

So quiet the house, the chair, the heart, the hour,

The world an anvil, I an anvil, waiting for

Christ the Hammerer.

 

 

 

Gardenias


 ‘And if I die we will go on thinking of each other.’

    From ‘To His Wife,’ ca. 100 B.C., 

  by General Su Wu,

  trans. Arthur Waley, 170 Chinese Poems


Did the General say an unusual thing?

He said in fact a usual thing.

People who do not have the experience


do not understand it.

They should not make a discussion of it.

They are a distraction.


My wife.

The moon.

Gardenias.


She and I go on thinking of each other.

I can see the moon go on.

I cannot see her go on.


That is the sole difference.

Pools reflect this

in moonlight.


They say there may be storms on the moon.

That too

was like us.

 

 


What she’s doing there


I look again at a fabulous poem

‘Seagulls’ by Eileen Casey from a

literary event in Clogh Kilkenny

in 2005: in the swirl and suck and uplift

of masses of birds an African man

climbs a hill in Tallaght on a chilly windy day

a shopping centre far below

and the poet wonders

what she’s doing there and what he’s doing there

and thanks to her I wonder what Ireland

the west coast of which came up

from southern Africa

millions of years ago is doing there

and the only here in all these theres

is the Cave of the Winds

which the ancient Greeks

took for granted

as who wouldn’t who lives

pitched provisionally on a small island

and I remember This Island Earth

the title of a kitsch science fiction film

whose three words are as good

as anything in Yeats or Eliot

and my mother not far off

who seemed to know all this

from her birth in Belfast and on and on

through and past her brief life

which she scampered across juggling madly

irresponsibility and responsibility

and so thank you Eileen

and thank you my mother’s genes

and my father’s and Ireland’s

and Africa’s for the helium hilarity

and downward sadness

and how can anyone count

how many years old anything is

or how long it will take the African man

to climb that hill

here I am in a Paris heat wave

in a restaurant on the rue des Carmes

eating a three balls of gelato

with a mint leaf on top

and this is being alive

this is Kubla Khan snapped off

the best thing that ever happened to it.

 

Copyright © Richard W. Halperin 2016


Reviews

Review:  Quiet in a Quiet House reviewed by Zoe Cassells for DURA - Dundee University Review of the Arts (June 2017)

it held in its hand, the spirit, a dainty fern
of solid gold, as all ferns were

before God loved and made them green.
(“The spirit crept outside the house at night”)

When we think of poetry, we do not think of silence; we think of a page filled, a rhyme uttered or uttered. Yet Richard W. Halperin’s collection, Quiet in a Quiet House, is wonderfully hushed, giving us – as the title suggests –  a peaceful space. A dual-national of Ireland and the U. S., Halperin has a talent for writing poems that traverse cities and small towns (for example, “Return to Japan” or “Rome”). In the main, however, the collection deals with the spirit of the place rather than its actual details:

a calm night

the souls of sweethearts
blow in the wind [.]

In a pause, Halperin opens up the page to white space, beckoning us to consider what lies between: the past, the remnants that push through stone and soil. Intimations of death do appear throughout the collection  – this is to be expected in such a contemplative work – but it does no damage to the joy of other pieces, the movement of “A Walk in Venice” or the humour of “Winged Words”.  In the latter the poet dines with Jane Austen:

She makes a pointed remark,
I choke with laughter, and the tea comes through my nose.

Quiet in a Quiet House is like a garden of echoes where words are nurtured and moments preserved. The various references to literature, from 8th century Chinese poet Po Chü-i to Joseph Conrad, reflect a love for language as well an undeniable  affinity with nature. Admirers of either are sure to enjoy his poetry, as indeed, anyone who might wish to be quietened by a soft voice, by the musings of a bibliophile, by a small glimpse into Greek myth  and in particular, by Homer’s Odyssey.

Above all, this is a collection of faith. Within the poems there is a faint undertow of Christian belief – the verse is not preachy, rather, intimate and genuine. Halperin allows God to enter almost every poem in the collection, though not gratuitously. Some poems, like “Book of Luke”, seem to attempt an understanding of Biblical themes;  others are more subtle. God becomes a ghost in the corner of a room. He is in the walls, invisible, settling onto the page in these melancholic lines:

So quiet the house, the chair, the heart, the hour,
The world an anvil, I an anvil, waiting for
Christ the Hammerer.

The collection should not be judged on its presentation of Christianity alone. Those inclined to reject it based on this reason are free to do so, but they ought to have another peek…There is far more here than meets the too-fleeting eye, including a few snippets of wisdom:

I do understand that planets and chipmunks don’t know how to read
And do just fine, but they don’t know what they’re missing.

Halperin is especially good at final lines. Of all the stanzas, the last is often the most astute and most quotable. By the time we reach the closing word, the emotional depths of the collection are lulled to a calm, pleasant quiet.

Quiet in a Quiet House will not suit everyone, but it may surprise many who choose stay with its peace.

Zoe Cassells

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