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Sculling On The Lethe / Paul Genega

Sculling On The Lethe

By: Paul Genega

€12.00
One of the great rewards of Paul Genega’s work (and for his readers there are many rewards to reap) is the poet’s immense and sophisticated apprehension of history. In his latest collection, Genega seizes much literary reference, encyclopedic fragment, information, and catalog. This book is not, however, simple recitation, for Genega fully charges all this material with a relentless, brutal, loving, hilarious sense of pl...
ISBN 978-1-912561-04-9
Pub Date Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Cover Image Thomas Eakins, self-portrait detail from The Champion Single Sculls (Max Schmitt in a Single Scull), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Page Count 64
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One of the great rewards of Paul Genega’s work (and for his readers there are many rewards to reap) is the poet’s immense and sophisticated apprehension of history. In his latest collection, Genega seizes much literary reference, encyclopedic fragment, information, and catalog. This book is not, however, simple recitation, for Genega fully charges all this material with a relentless, brutal, loving, hilarious sense of play, by which I mean intelligent trickery, political hoopla, linguistic shenanigans and—above all—good music. Genega holds together anachronisms, mythology, newsroom rhetoric, ritual, and burlesque to compose poems that are both delightful and disorienting. The collection culminates in the stunning long poem “Shays’ Rebellion,” an anti-romantic and anti-nostalgic satire-collage which takes to task our long list of American tyrants, tycoons, sycophants, and buffoons. In Sculling On The Lethe, Paul Genega doesn’t just tell the story of a nation’s crackpot suffering, he makes that story swing. 

Patrick Rosal

Paul Genega

PAUL GENEGA has published six chapbooks and six full-length collections, four with Salmon. His work has appeared in journals, anthologies and magazines for over forty years, winning awards from The Nation, New York Quarterly and The Literary Review, and an individual fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Perhaps, a portfolio of poems with etchings by Aaron Fink, is in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Harvard Museums, among others. His poem "The Self-Made Man and the Moon" was turned into a robotic theater piece by Barry Brian Werger at the robotics lab at the University of Southern California and toured the US and abroad. As part of ARTS By the People’s Moving Words project, "Pharaoh" was made into an animation by Omar Mizrah and premiered at the Animix Festival in Tel Aviv in 2018. His theater piece Paging Doctor Faustus, co-authored with Patricia Lee Stotter, was performed at the FiveMyles Gallery in Brooklyn in April 2020. Earlier, the Stotter/Genega musical Haven’t We Met? was presented at The Writers Theatre in New York as part of its Developing Projects Festival. Songs from that show were reprised online as Once Upon a Happily Ever After in 2022 by Studio Theater in Exile. He has worked as full-time research assistant to the co-editors of The Jackson Pollock Catalogue Raisonné and as Contributing Editor of The Columbia Encyclopedia. In 2014, upon the death of Antje Katcher, founding editor of Three Mile Harbor Press, he assumed responsibility for the press and inaugurated an annual poetry prize. Currently, he is Professor Emeritus at Bloomfield College, New Jersey, where he founded the creative writing program, served as Chair of Humanities, and taught literature and writing for thirty years. He lives with his husband Jim and their Welsh springer spaniel Chance at the edge of the majestic Hudson in Stuyvesant, New York.  



Cassandra
for Patty Stotter

Listen quick while the words
are still my making. Inside others
are waiting, night-feathered and
clawed. Words, words, they fly
from poor Cassandra. Cassandra, poor
Cassandra, less a woman now than wind.

No one dares kiss these lips
which can’t stop moving, dares touch.
See, real hands. Me, I see too
clearly. Even lids shut
such dazzle, such sharp light.
Yes, pity her… us… me…

Like the moon, the living moon
which can tongue its way through
forest, nothing stops her. She is
his. I am she. I am Cassandra
a flame which should be frozen
a buoy in heaving seas lamenting

its own clapper. I toll. I toll 
like fate. She names the days. She
am Cassandra, with the truth
which makes men shudder, which makes
them laugh. They’ll soon be ash. All
but you, if you will listen while

she thinks this is her making.
Words, I give her words, unstoppable
as ocean, to roil around that once-proud
mouth. Drink, if you dare, but beware
I am Cassandra. Mine. I am the god’s
cursed with words skinned from the stars


Pulaski Skyway

Low like the mean dream 
of Newark the sky must 
have seemed to its builders. 
Rickety now, unhinging 

you fear you’ll reach the end only 
thanks to magic – witch cauldrons
soldered (eye of newt intact)
to forge this highway hubris.

Fifty year old rock cackles 
on the radio, loud as
the chemical sunrise, car
lifting over fetid pools of sludge.

Below lies ballad country – 
swamps of sawed-up bodies
Saturday night specials
punks in concrete shoes – 

and you’re stuck with flat 
prose, a gas-good, yawn-blue 
compact – probable
logical, responsible and dull.

A skyway wants a gasser
wants a singer, wants a lover
wants a souped-up chrome finned 
speedster to ride the rising sky –

     last star, lost love
    wind fist, soft glove

steel grates drumming
cattails swooning shoop-shoop
trusses bleeding rust
like America’s tied veins. 



Ruth’s White Glove 

for Toni Morrison

The man with heavy 
hands fumbles with
pearl buttons, a long
row of small buttons
shining like moons 
in a universe of mites. 
Down the satin white
he works, awkwardly
painstakingly, as if
he were a wave grasping
single grains of sand.
One by one he undoes
them, him all thumbs
and praying it be proper
this slow solemn rushing
solemn so slow rushing
when the last at last
releases from its loop
the glove sloughs off
and he strokes her
naked flesh, believing 
the whole while it is he 
who has been touched. 


All poems © Copyright Paul Genega 2018


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