Mortals + Immortals: 35th Year Celebration Anthology edited by David Lampe, SUNY Buffalo State, Burchfield Penney Art Center, 181 pages ($20 paperback). 116 poets have read from their work at the Burchfield-Penney Arts Center (going back to when it was just the Burchfield Gallery) during the last 35 years. This elegant, silver-covered paperback of 17 of them not only commemorates the work of those poets, it is one of the increasing number of poetry anthologies paying tribute to one elemental fact about Buffalo life since the mid-’60s: that poetics has been one of Buffalo’s most successful native industries and one of its most exportable as well. As compiler David Lampe notes in his introduction, those poets – beginning with John Logan, followed a year later by Carl Dennis and then Irving Feldman, Leslie Fiedler, Raymond Federman, Mac Hammond, John Clarke, Robert Creeley, William Sylvester, Charles Bernstein, Susan Howe – comprise an “inventory of modern American literature.” What they also do, of course, is paint a rather astonishing portrait of what poetry has meant to the cultural life of this city since 1978.
Of his choices, Lampe says “twenty four of the poems by 15 poets have …local coloring.…. As Charles Bernstein puts it ‘what we tune/tunes us.’ ”
Among the poems by John Logan that begin the volume, we have “Five Preludes for Buffalo’s Own Forest Lawn” including these lines: ‘About the spring pond in this elementary town,/flowering trees drop their white and purple petals down/as mallards nest and the baby ducks waddle round,” which is immediately followed by what happens to the flesh of a child in a coffin guarded by a stone angel. “The angel guardian/dissolves in tears of falling stone,/and those who were so attached to him have all gone home/except for one who makes now this protective poem.”
Other poets included in “Mortals + Immortals” are included in following order – Ansie Baird, Carl Dennis, Harvey Breverman, Leslie Fiedler, Irving Feldman, John Clarke, Mac Hammond, William Sylvester, Ann Goldsmith, Joan Murray, Raymond Federman, Robert Creeley, Emily Grosholz, Robert Lax, Charles Bernstein and Susan Howe.
– Jeff Simon