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All I Can Recall
February 2013

Sculling On The Lethe

Paul Genega

ISBN: 978-1-912561-04-9

Page Count: 64

Publication Date: Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Cover Artwork: Thomas Eakins, self-portrait detail from The Champion Single Sculls (Max Schmitt in a Single Scull), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Click to play audio "Cassandra" from "Sculling On The Lethe". Read by ... play
Click to play audio "Pulaski Skyway" from "Sculling on the Lethe". Rea... play
Click to play audio "Ruth's White Glove" from "Sculling on the Lethe".... play

About this Book

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

Author Biography

Sculling on the Lethe is Paul Genega’s sixth full-length collection of poetry and his fourth with Salmon. Over a forty year career, his work has appeared in a wide range of journals and magazines including Poetry, Paterson Literary Review, Stone Canoe, Stillwater Review and Narrative Northeast and in the anthologies Like Light (Bright Hill Press, 2017) and Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology (Salmon, 2010). His work has received such honors as the Lucille Medwick Award (New York Quarterly), Discovery Award (The Nation), Charles Angoff Award (The Literary Review) and an individual fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. His poetry is also featured in the forthcoming film Paging Doctor Faustus; ARTS by the People’s US/Israeli Moving Words project; and the play Ophelia in Brooklyn, premiering in Brussels, spring 2018. Genega taught for many years at Bloomfield College, New Jersey where he founded the creative writing program and served as Chair of Humanities. His legacy continues at Bloomfield through the Genega Endowed Scholarships in Creative Writing. 

Read a sample from this book

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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