poet robert milby

Gothic Orange By Robert Milby

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A Guardian of Lost Legacies

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 By Karen Corinne Herceg.

In Robert Milby’s new chapbook, “Gothic Orange”, he fosters in us “the awe of eternal human history” (P. 5, l. 13), as he states so eloquently in “The Fossil Record, Catalogued by a Child.” He uses his home county of Orange in the Hudson Valley, New York region to create a microcosm of wonder and natural intelligence that informs both the local and wider landscapes of the world. Specific regional references correlate to universal knowledge through very personal perspectives, and Milby knows the minutia of the area as well as anyone. In stark and striking language, he writes with an antique authenticity, a pre-industrial mindset, and nostalgic yearning for a purer time of farms, fields, and the poetry of nature with “The sagacity of woodsmoke, grease/and ethers of the hayride of American history” (P. 10, ll. 10-11). He exhibits a remarkable ability to observe the environment with extreme patience and detailed specificity in the tradition of such great poets as Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Frost.

Milby reminds us that the ghosts of the past are integral to our shared history. They are ever present, but mostly obscured by modern noise and distractions that steal our rich heritage and the quietude required for reflection that enriches the imagination. We are overwhelmed by contemporary emphasis on commerce, capital, and our perceptions of compressed time. There is great irony in our emphasis on physical gain, loss, and success as opposed to what we miss on much deeper, spiritual levels:
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            Small village life, family secrets and scandals, useless to
            City folk, because in the end, the money cults prevailed. (P. 9, ll. 25-26)
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We are out of balance with nature and the very wonders that surround us. We bypass these gifts each day with our eyes transfixed on screens and superfluous messages. Meanwhile we forfeit the subtle, important wisdom that resides within our natural environment. Milby laments our lack of reverence for the natural world. He asks:

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           What is this motoring madness; distraction
           from the walk of life; song of Aurora’s heralds;
          whisper of a child at Dawn? (P. 18, ll. 10-11).
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There are very specific examples of our inability to acknowledge the disconnections we experience within our environment. Milby cares deeply and expresses this throughout his work.  We feel his deep sense of loss of a centuries old cottonwood in “The Balmville Tree,” cut down and disposable. He assigns an anthropomorphic persona to the tree that enhances the fact that this was a living, breathing entity: “Here he stood, a patriarch; a witness tree; over 300 years of/Hudson River story” (P. 13, ll. 2-3). And, again, in “Night Noise,” he employs a human element in a description of  “the parched and cracked skin of fields” (P. 16, l. 3).  Given our ubiquitous disregard for the importance and pre-eminence of nature, is it any wonder that a coyote would hide “from the heresy of humans”? (P. 26, l. 20).

Milby has a facility for examining humans and nature both in opposition and in communion. In “The King of the Frogs” he states: “I speak science truths one day, mythology the next” (P. 8, l. 17), evoking our ongoing conflicts and attempts to reconcile the mystical and the material worlds. He draws on his deep understanding of nature and extensive knowledge of both literary and world history to create an informed and nostalgic yearning, combining his wonder of the natural with ponderings of our many troubled interactions in the world. With wonderful, original lines like “the rails hiss like feral cats” (P. 10, l. 14-15), “wildlife gossip like human festivals” (P. 14, l. 17), and “Post partum rain” (P. 16, l. 1), he brings into focus the symbiosis of humanity and our indigenous environment. His connection to nature is intensely personal, and he integrates that connection with all aspects of art including painting, as in “The Field—for Vincent Van Gogh,” and with music in “The Grand Montgomery Chamber Series in Spring”:

            The artists spoke mythos through the piano. Forests rose,
            Surrounding the concert hall.
            Marshes and pastures permeated the parking lot.
            No breathing was labored as Chopin walked through the walls. (P. 4, ll. 10-13)
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 A visual image or auditory experience can evoke a direct association with elements of our inherent biological world. We have a legacy that is both ethereal and tactile, and nature is the bridge to that magical world through which we can “trace our organic past” (P. 5, ll. 1-2). There are “verses trapped in ancient stone” (P. 5, l. 8).

Milby is the Poet Laureate of Orange County, New York (2017-2019), an honor that is well earned and well deserved. He is the paterfamilias of poetry in the county and beyond it, encouraging and supporting his fellow poets, reading not only his own work but also promoting the work of others, hosting series and events since 1995, and publishing throughout the Northeast in many journals and anthologies. He is the author of four previous books of poetry and two spoken word CDs. We owe a debt of gratitude to him for his dedication, support and assiduous study of the ancient art of poetry that is so vitally needed in our modern world.

We may not ever reconcile the contradictions of human desires and intentions with the imperatives of nature, but we have poetry like Milby’s to prompt us to awareness and reflection so that we, too, might stop to reconsider our interactions and possibly make “a truce with/snowflakes” (P. 24, l. 19-20).

Milby, Robert. Gothic Orange.  New York: Printeks Reprographics, 2018. Copies available from the poet at:

robertjmilby@gmail.com     

Karen Corinne Herceg writes poetry, prose, reviews and essays.  A graduate of Columbia University, she has studied and read with renowned writers Philip Schultz, David Ignatow, John Ashbery and William Packard. Her latest book is Out From Calaboose by Nirala Publications (2017).  She lives in the Hudson Valley, New York.

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In Memory of Donald Lev – (Poet and Publisher, May 15, 1936—September 30th, 2018)

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Donald Lev reading at the Mudd Puddle Café – New Paltz, New York – May 17, 2014. Photograph by g emil reutter

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Donald Lev attended Hunter College, worked in the wire rooms of the Daily News and New York Times, and then drove a taxi cab for 20 years (with a 6-year hiatus in which he ran messages for, and contributed poetry to, The Village Voice and operated the Home Planet Bookshop on the Lower East Side). His earliest poems appeared in print in 1958 and he started his first small press magazine, HYN Anthology, in 1969.
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Among his honors have been a Madeline Sadin Award from New York Quarterly in 1973 and a Life Time Achievement Award from the Catskill Reading Society/Outloudbooks in 2003. He was Distinguished Visiting Poet for the Northeast Poetry Center in Sugar Loaf, NY in July of 2012. In 2008 Outloudbooks brought out his The Darkness Above: Selected Poems 1968-2002 a sampling from the first four decades of his writing. A chapbook, Only Wings: 20 Poems of Devotion was published in 2010 by Presa Press in Michigan, and a new collection, A Very Funny Fellow, was brought out by NYQ Books in February, 2012. Another book, Where I Sit, was published by Presa Press in 2015, and his latest collection, Focus, was issued in 2017 by NYQ Books.
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His brief underground film-acting career pinnacled with his portrayal (he wrote his own lines) of “The Poet” in Robert Downey Sr.’s 1969 classic Putney Swope.
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He lived in High Falls, NY, where he published the literary tabloid Home Planet News (online at:  http://www.homeplanetnews.org/ ), which he and his late wife Enid Dame founded in 1979.
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A Poem by Robert Milby 
 
In Memory of Donald Lev
Donald, you arrived in Spring, during one of our worst depressions;
you left in Autumn, on the cusp of October.
Throughout your life, you wrote your own lines; none could contest your authentic scroll.
You were a living lantern for younger poets; your elder Soul.
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You brought the news of the poets, by the poets, and to the poets.
When you lost Enid, she gained you, again; as you reached out to her,
at each poetry reading, whether or not you read her works aloud.
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In our Hudson Valley, we kept a place for you at every word banquet.
Each year, we honored you at the coffeehouse in New Paltz, with a summer reading.
Sagacity and wit, lost on the young; but a comfort to the old.
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How did you, son of New York City stay in Ulster County, after your great loss?
Poetry. You gave us immortality in a tabloid; words and paper proof that even yesterday’s news,
passed into history, has merit in memory.
We will think of you, at our many poetry readings, where you no longer sit, dozing,
or exacting your urban wit of a true, noble prophet; and laughter of an old, and trusted friend.
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Albany Poets Remember Donald Levhttps://albanypoets.com/2018/10/donald-lev-1936-2018/

Talking With a Very Funny Fellowhttp://giantstepspress.blogspot.com/2012/07/talking-with-very-funny-fellow.html

 
What Some Have Said Of The Poetry of  Donald Lev
 
“Writing, crafting poetry that’s lyrical, meaningful and imaginative; that says something about the self and the universe is not as easy as it looks – and I can think of at least two dozen “famous” small press poets who should sit at the feet of Mr. Lev (though he’d probably flick them off with a hand).”  –Phil Wagner, Iconoclast
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“How to save the planet? From Don Lev’s poems to God’s ear, that’s how.”
 -Bob Holman 
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“Donald Lev writes poems that are deceptively simple yet infused with a subtle irony that gives them a poignant intimacy.  He achieves this through his reliance on directness and honesty.  For Lev, the writing is easy, compared to all the living that led to it.  Yet we get the impression that his writing is also essential to his ongoing sanity, and this is the redemption of poetry itself in the hands of a master.”   -Eric Greinke, Presa

“Apart from the funny business Lev is a poet of thought and theme, though he would doubtless pooh-pooh such a notion. With an unassuming lightness reminiscent of Piet Hein’s Grooks, Lev spins out little dialectical webs that define an ironic persona, self-reflective to a fault, confused and weak in the tangle of every day’s human predicament, yet whose neuroses rest on a broader foundation of affirmation and for whom poetry provides the redemptive charms necessary to get through the day.” – William Seaton 

“Donald Lev is a poetic treasure not only here in the Hudson River Valley, but also in New York State, indeed the entire Nation of Poetry & otherwise”. – Dan Wilcox

 Donald Lev on Youtubehttps://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=poet+donald+lev

Some Books by Donald Lev:

Only Wings – http://presapress.com/books/only-wings-20-poems-of-devotion

Where I Sit – http://presapress.com/books/where-i-sit

Focus – https://books.nyq.org/title/focus

A Very Funny Fellow – https://books.nyq.org/title/averyfunnyfellow

Intercourse With the Dead – https://www.abebooks.com/9780917402111/Intercourse-dead-Poems-Downtown-poets-0917402111/plp

The Darkness Above- Selected Poems 1968-2002 – https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=22666312949&searchurl=kn%3Ddonald%2Blev%26sortby%3D17%26ds%3D20&cm_sp=snippet-_-srp1-_-title1

Grief – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3571290-grief

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Robert Milby, of Florida, NY, has been reading his poems, public since March, 1995, and hosts four Hudson Valley poetry readings; including the popular series at Mudd Puddle Café in New Paltz.  He has published several books of poetry, and two cds.  Since October, 2003, Milby and Performance Artist, Carl Welden perform as Theremin Ghosts!  Milby reads original ghost and gothic poems, as Welden accompanies on the Moog Theremin.  Milby is the Poet Laureate of Orange County, NY 2017- 2019.

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Crows at Dawn by Robert Milby

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Photograph by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

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Crows at Dawn

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The bald man walks briskly; shoulder bag and freshly cleaned suit coat;                                  smart phone; smart boots, thoughts of Manhattan, and a long day.                                                  It must have taken an hour to shave his head; press his Brooks Brothers’ shirt.

Spring has left her adolescence.  Crows converse rapidly;                                                         aggressively beneath the remains of a full moon.                                                                           Robins and Sparrows wander nearby.

The man rules his stride, and with no thoughts of his sleeping wife;                                                  no cars on the avenue to distract him, he does not look at the namesake of the street                                        to determine the crows on Maple Avenue.

Their calls are crucial to the dawn.  This glory at sunrise—a religious invocation,                 celebrating the last cool morning before Summer enters her kitchen.                                                     The bald chap does not look up as he enters his Volkswagen, and shuts the door.

 He speeds up the street— Roses and Honeysuckle chase his dream, while visions of office meetings wander his tired mind, past the Robins, past the Sparrows; beneath the gathering Crows, laughing at him at dawn.

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robert

Robert Milby, of Florida, NY, has been reading his poems, public since March, 1995, and hosts four Hudson Valley poetry readings; including the popular series at Mudd Puddle Café in New Paltz.  He has published several books of poetry, and two cds.  Since October, 2003, Milby and Performance Artist, Carl Welden perform as Theremin Ghosts!  Milby reads original ghost and gothic poems, as Welden accompanies on the Moog Theremin.  Milby is the Poet Laureate of Orange County, NY 2017- 2019.