Songs and Poems by Felice Picano Review by Jennifer Wenn
A number of the early items predate even Deformity Lover, some of them thought lost until recently.Amazon USA
Songs and Poems by Felice Picano
Review by Jennifer Wenn
Songs and Poems is noted American writer, publisher and critic Felice Picano’s latest book of poetry, his first since 1978’s The Deformity Lover and Other Poems. In Songs and Poems Picano, a founder of modern gay literature, has authored an eclectic set of pieces, split into two groups: “Early Songs and Poems” and “Later Songs and Poems.” This slim volume focusses on acutely-observed portraits, many being of people (some who have passed on) and relationships. As the title implies, in both sections we shift between simpler song lyrics and a variety of poetic forms.
A number of the early items predate even Deformity Lover, some of them thought lost until recently. One noteworthy work in the early grouping is a set of selections from “On the Morton Street Pier: A Poem Suite”, six snapshots of one of the main sights of the West Village, the historical hub of gay life in New York City. There are also homages to the celebrated writers Edgar Allen Poe (“Is This It, Mr. Poe?”, which also holds a melancholy mirror up to the author), Emily Dickinson (“Homage to Emily D.”) and, most notably, W. H. Auden, with whom Picano had a close friendship (the beautiful “In Memoriam: Wystan Hugh Auden, 1973” which the author worked on for some years): “How can you hear an era end/in the whoosh of a push-pad/supermarket door?/Whistlings in the rubber grooves,/gravely intoning, ‘Auden’s gone’?”
The later portion ranges emotionally from the exultance of “Lifted” to the sadness and nostalgia of “My Mother’s Life.” The anchor piece is the four-part “Window Elegies”, which first appeared as a chapbook in 1987 and won an award from the Poetry Society of America. This is a brilliant, aching portrait of the rise and fall of a relationship, replete with architectural and environmental images (“We stood in a row of matched windows/each one spangled with the dark,/coordinated as though in a De Chirico/portico through which a draped/and fleeing figure weaves/her moon splintering night.”).
This is a very accessible work, although the four interesting ekphrastic pieces in “Repaintings” do benefit from searching out the art works that inspired them. Throughout the whole there is an abiding sense of longing, loss and awareness of mortality in contention with joy in the moment. Definitely recommended.
The Pride Villager will not be out until early April. I will make sure you the the e-copy as well as a hard copy.
Glad to hear about the vaccine. We are still waiting here in Ontario.
Enjoy your day and stay safe.
Martin Withenshaw, Treasurer
Rainbow Optimist Club - Southwestern Ontario