Announcing the publication of “Moonbird”

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Poetry by Henry G. Stanton published by Cathexis Northwest Press $10 +$.60 MD Tax + $3 shipping


Moonbird by Henry Stanton Mini-review by Dean Gessie,

Moonbird is a remarkable collection of poetry. In the opening poem, “Heart Murmur”, the narrator clutches a songbird “in the forever of my closed hand.” Immediately, the poet introduces axiomatic ideas that underpin much of his master work: we are both caretaker and existential menace mediated by ambivalence toward beauty. If that isn’t clear, “Songbird” underscores the dialectic and pins the tail on the donkey (or human ass): “they all fly as small beings thousands of miles/from one vanishing verdant forest to the next” juxtaposed with “our own disintegrating forgotten home”. Similarly, in “Bulbpulse”, the narrator imagines his pulse “under the frozen ground’. We are routinely stunted, adumbrated and paralyzed by the winning efforts of our failings.

But there is hope for those who risk direct contact. Stanton channels the vivid, sensualist imagery of William Carlos Williams in the poem titled, “Peaches”. The narrator’s concluding line reads, “if you bite these peaches they drip succulent juices.” In the poem titled “Irises”, the poet uses the lower case “i” to indicate a posture of self-effacement and humility: “and now the iris is singing/and i am silent as it sings”. Arguably, in the poem titled “Denali”, the narrator conveys some optimism, if only for a mountain range: “an open human chest is the entire state of Alaska” coupled with the refrain, “Go high”.

Categories are always reductionist, but, certainly, another area of interest in Moonbird is identity. In the poem titled “Naming”, the narrator suggests a simple path toward the Socratic quest of knowing yourself: if you work in a garden, you will learn the names or essences of things and, eventually, “you are named.” But most paths to identity are fraught with elemental, mythopoeic struggle. In “Electric Life”, the narrator says as much directly, ““I call you to awful combat/and/you are awake again.” Or, in “Subterranean”, the narrator exhorts us to not become that which we buy at Home Depot, but, rather, to “beat on thy chest naked”, huddle with fire and “plant a huge living tree.”
Speaking of fire, it is cleanse and cure in the poem “Burnit”. The narrator struggles to escape the mess of his life (the projects, the office and the ambition) and grimly intones: “everything will be burned.” Conversely. “Flat Line” tacks in the direction of philosophical observation with elusive conclusions: experience as centrifuge, the way the natural world, human relationships, poetry, all of it, “turns now in your mind/dowel turning” and leaves wood leavings “the way it might not be/the way it is not.”

Of course, death is no stranger to great poetry and Stanton, too, leaves the reaper’s bony footprints in the snow. In the aptly named, “In Memoriam”, the death of a neighbor’s wife leads the narrator to conclude of a “sobbing” widow and his own labor: “it is as this work is/but I would like to go to him.” Our comings and goings do not preclude the mysteries of shared fellowship and grief, but they don’t oblige us to do anything, either. In the poem titled “Star”, a lover dies and the narrator is left with a kind of two-part transcendence: a legacy of “rain bridges/north poles/the sky nail [and] a black hole”; afterward, the figure of the wife will shout “star” and be once again with the narrator. It’s difficult not to recall the importance of naming elsewhere in the collection or, for that matter, the opening of John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word.” Grief and faith make Word in the world.

Elsewhere, in the poem “Waves”, the narrator once again recalls death as something of the Roman god, Janus, beginnings, gates and transitions: “you will go to the Ocean healed.” Stanton’s death has phenomenological roots whose branches break through the stratosphere. Or, seen differently, we can aspire to collective, unconscious atonement, scant hope, perhaps, for creatures like us who experience the outer world through concentric circles of self-love.

And there is so much more to enjoy and ponder in this collection. The poem “Familiar Way” contains one of the most moving passages of poetry you are ever likely to read. The narrator references a young buck with “compound fractures in two of his legs”. Later, when contemplating his loved one, the narrator goes to her with “velvet from the antlers of the young buck” and describes his “warm open throbbing heart hobbled and flush with love.” Whether that love is for the buck, his lover or both is mute. At our best, we are fractured and hobbled by the synesthesia of love, death and beauty.

I cannot recommend Moonbird more highly. The collection is a kind of loot bag. You pour out stars on their way to the night sky. You shake out Paleolithic pieces of DNA. Or you get oracle bones, always fresh combinations of ox scapula or turtle plastron. Henry Stanton bores into things and he is gracious enough to leave us the evidence of his work.


From its elegant square shape and wrap-around cover design to Henry G. Stanton’s lovely and powerful center-justified lyric meditations, Moonbird is a true pleasure to hold, behold, and read.

In a central poem, “Names,” Stanton proclaims, “I want to hear your heart,” and he successfully hears many others—humans, plants, and animals (“Saw-Whet Owl, for example)— and presents them all in accessible, but complex modes, and through these presentations, the reader gets to know Stanton himself more intimately. One thing poetry can do well, and Stanton succeeds splendidly.

In “Songbird” Stanton begins, “There is no way to say this / you have to see it / sing,” and then goes on to describe “this one for instance” in great and evocative detail as a painter might—and, indeed, Stanton is also a wonderful painter and captures in both words and paintings so much of today’s world. Please look at this paintings, too,

Moonbird also features elegies and in them Stanton tries to connect to both the dead and the grieving— and he succeeds so well. I cannot recommend this book more highly. Alan Bern, Poet

Moonbird is beautiful, stunning, artistic, and the prosody profound and moving. I am attached to these poems, having previously read them over and over, and I remember every single one. You are a poet’s poet.  Thank you for enlightening the world with your humanity and imagination. Sandra Fluck, Editor & Writing Consultant, The Write Launch

I adore Moonbird.  You have a wonderful ear.  I particularly love the poem, Baja.

Henry Stanton has written a lovely book of poetry here that manages to just straddle the line between the personal and the universal. His ear is excellent and his eye discerning. This is not a book for people who think that a poet should be object or distant from their material. This is not a book for readers who cannot stomach big emotions or see genuine feeling as sentimentality. A fine collection, beautifully produced.
Joel Peckham, writer of Much

This collection is so aptly named. A moonbird implies beauty, nature, life, where you wouldn’t expect to find it–a wing launched from basalt rock. Take, for example, the poem “Router Error.” I love the tonal shift from exasperation—the speaker threatening to “rip out that cord” of that maddening hardware and cast it into water—to sudden dark wonder at finding “lovely young frightening” Ophelia, staring up from below the surface. You never see what’s coming in Moonbird. You think it’s one thing, and then the kaleidoscope of Stanton’s eye reveals something else, startling and new. So richly layered. Rachel Peckham, Poet and University Professor


Moonbird is a collection of poetry from the multi- talented, Henry G Stanton: it is abundantly clear, that Stanton has an Eagle’s eye for detail, of course, this is a natural possession of any quality poet, but Stanton has the additional skills of seeing, with absolute clarity, those inner, those finer details that are so frequently and unfortunately, not seen or overlooked: these intricate observations, will leave no soul unturned, moved and reflective: these wonderfully sculptured, beautifully painted words are you and I and all life, living and dying on this planet: these poems have been taken from life for life, renewing or resurrecting, the stark, colourful and compelling imagery of a moment, of a time, that now belongs to the world forever: poems such as the opening ‘Heart Murmur’ ‘Baja’ ‘Router Error’ ‘Naming’ ‘Familiar Way’ ‘I Forgot Who Told Me This’ through to the final poem ‘Waves’: are simply outstanding pieces: the 32 poems collected in Moonbird have joined the ranks of my very selective and modest collection of poetry books and I would suggest that Moonbird, should be a part of your collection.

Stanton’s poetry pulls beyond the words on the page. Is it a search for the “suchness” of things, the true self, the true reality? The poet refuses to be trapped in his corporeality to divine the “whatness” of self: “Tathāgata will be my next child.” – The Write Launch

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