The Light and Air of Our Work

The Light and Air of Our Work, Essays, Reviews and Poems About Poetry 149+20 pp. (Portsmouth, NH: Marble Kite Press, 2013) $15

A new collection of 19 essays, 10 selected reviews, 46 poems, and an epilogue, “In Defense of the Arts: Art and Democracy.”

In 2005, Annie Farnsworth and Dennis Camire, editors of the superb poetry quarterly, Animus, asked me to submit topical essays for the magazine. Each issue was built around a theme that emerged from the submissions and I would be sent the theme as they were preparing the issue for publication. I prepared a bundle of fourteen essays as a “writing sample,” to assure them they were not buying a pig in a poke. And submitted six new essays, each for one of the final six issues.

I intended to collect these essays, along with some of my reviews intended to demonstrate how I put my ideas into practice, and some of my poems about poetry. I’m fairly adamant about the inherent weakness of writing about writing so, of course, I do it anyway. I didn’t intend to get this material together until about 2020. But an invitation from Craig Werth and Ellen Taylor to lead the poetry workshops at the annual Writers in the Round Star Island Retreat in 2013, made me think it would be a nice parting gift for all the participants, both the singer/songwriters and the poets.

The title of the book is taken from a poem called “Credentials,” a “let your poem speak for itself” poem. Essays include: Five Criteria for a Finished Poem, The Five Senses Test, Humorous Poetry, Love Poems, Memory, Modern Poetry Stinks, Obscenity in Poetry, Political Poetry, Seven Criteria of Zen Art, Title, What Is Modern Poetry?, and (most important) Your Readers.

The book is available from me for $15, postage and packaging included. Please mail me a check [John-Michael Albert, 110 Union Street, No. 1, Portsmouth, NH 03801] and I’ll be happy to mail you an autographed copy.


When a reader mentions his degrees,
remove his shoes and socks.
When he waves the magazines he’s in,
force him to surrender his pants and belt.

Off come his shirt and tie
if he is included in any anthologies.
Off come his underwear—shorts and shirts—
when he mentions the books he has published.

Mention of reviews and essays is
particularly egregious. Scrub him down
with Lava soap and a wire bruch,
rinse him off with stinging sea water.

Then, and only then, will he be ready to do
what we expected him to do in the first place,
before he opened his mouth and started to squawk:
Read without fanfare or introduction.

And us? When it comes our time to read?
We have nothing to surrender, we are already naked
and are comfortable being so,
clad as we are in the light and air of our work.

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