Comments and Awards

About Jack Gilbert

      “Jack Gilbert left Pittsburgh as a young man but “Pittsburgh is still tangled in him,” he tells us as he approaches eighty years of age. He needs the mills “even though they are gone, to measure against.” He knows luxury by the sound of the trees that filled his childhood. He builds his Pittsburgh again and again:

           In Paris afternoons on Buttes-Chaumont. On Greek islands
           with their fields of stone. In beds with women, sometimes,
           amid their gentleness….

      "In these poems, we see Gilbert using the brutality and beauty of Pittsburgh, its sights and sounds and smells, to make himself into the man and artist he wants to be. In the process, he not only describes the city of his youth—“…brick and tired wood. Ox and sovereign spirit”—but takes the brawling Pittsburgh of rivers, streetcars and railroads, bridges and mills, and transmutes it into “the mind’s steel / and the riveted girders of the soul,” even into himself in old age: “A cauldron of cooling melt.” Here, the physical becomes the spiritual. The language of steel describes the making of the poet:

                                           The weight of the mind fractures
           the girders and piers of the spirit, spilling out
           the heart’s melt….

      "Even as a boy, brooding on carnival women:

                                  He vaguely understood that it was not
           their flesh that was a mystery but something on the other
           side of it….

      "Gilbert takes from the city of his birth and young manhood, Pittsburgh’s lushness and severity, its irresistible power, and forges them into the 'tough heaven' of these poems.”

Mary Ann Connors Larkin
Foreword, Tough Heaven

“Gilbert isn’t just a remarkable poet. He’s a poet whose directness and lucidity ought to appeal to lots of readers…. Indeed, what’s powerful about Gilbert is that he is a rarity, especially in this day and age: the poet who stands outside his own time, practicing a poetics of purity in an ever-more cacophonous world…. No other poet I know captures so well a mind torn between the pleasures of austerity and the fecund, intoxicating powers of abundance. What Gilbert is searching for, poem after poem, are the ideal circumstances where the two intersect, and privation becomes a form of richness…. Gilbert’s poems about women can, I think, be thought of as still lifes in the manner of visual arts, where we still find such deliberate, rational acts of paying reverence to female beauty acceptable—even expected. These poems are part and parcel of his larger project: rescuing from the debilitating forces of cynicism a conviction that transcendence can await us in this world.”

Meghan O’Rourke

“…Stunning vistas and masterfully crafted works of heartbreaking beauty…. He forges his own path with writing that is at once intellectually dense and profoundly human. His work radiates with humility and awe, and he brings an intellectual heft that is often lacking in contemporary poetry…. Rather than declare answers, he stubbornly asks how to be human in a world of loss, violence, failures and suffering…. Gilbert has often been called a poet of loss but these poems are rich with having—the Mediterranean sun, catching a fly ball, the lessons of solitude.”

Elizabeth Hoover
Los Angeles Times

About Pond Road Press Awards

Garrison Keillor featured Larkin's poem "The House on Broughton Street" on Writer's Almanac in August 2005.

Mary Ann Larkin's book A Shimmering That Goes With Us was selected for publication by Finishing Line Press in 2005.

Patric Pepper's book of poems, Temporary Apprehensions, was selected by the Washington Writers Publishing House of Washington, DC, and published in the spring of 2005. In addition to publication, the award carried a $500 prize.

Garrison Keillor, on his NPR show The Writer's Almanac on Wednesday, February 25, featured the following poem from the Pond Road Press publication, "Shubad's Crown" by Meredith Holmes:
          At last I can be with you!
          The grinding hours
          since I left your side!
          The labor of being fully human,
          working my opposable thumb,
          talking, and walking upright.
          Now I have unclasped
          unzipped, stepped out of.
          Husked, soft, a be-er only,
          I do nothing, but point
          my bare feet into your
          clean smoothness
          feel your quiet strength
          the whole length of my body.
          I close my eyes, hear myself
          moan, so grateful to be held this way.
Meredith Holmes' first book of poems, "Shubad's Crown," has been chosen to be part of "Writers and Their Friends," a literary showcase featuring the work of 25 Northeast Ohio writers. The event, held every other year, is sponsored by the Poet's and Writer's League of Greater Cleveland. Her work is also included in Garrison Keillor's anthology Good Poems.

About Comments on Pond Road Press

By Kaimi Rose Lum

Mary Ann Larkin, a poet and part-time resident of Truro, has founded with her husband, Patric Pepper, a small literary press named for a place that she thinks is a poem in and of itself. The Pond Road Press, operated out of the couple’s spare, marshside summer home in North Truro, recently published its first two books of poetry and aspires to become a platform for “excellent writers who have received little recognition.”

Larkin said in a recent interview that the press was a way of “taking charge of your own art” in a world that offers few publishing options for poets. “There’s not as many pieces of the pie in poetry,” she said, quoting the director of a well-known arts foundation. “There’s so few poetry publishers that it’s like winning the lottery to get a book of poetry published.” Through Pond Road Press, Larkin and Pepper, also a poet, intend to print a modest number of poetry chapbooks in the next few years. The writers they select will be “people we think are very good” but who are relatively obscure, “either because they haven’t bothered to try to get published or because they haven’t been able to.” Books will be $10 each and will be available in local bookstores.

They have chosen for their inaugural editions work that is very close to home. The two books published this summer include “Shubad’s Crown” by Cleveland poet Meredith Holmes, a longtime friend of Larkin’s, and “The DNA of the Heart,” a collection of poems written by Larkin and Pepper over the last 13 years.” The couple will read from their book at 7 p.m. next Tuesday, Sept. 2, at the Truro Library. (Music for the reading will be provided by Tim Dickey.)

Larkin and Pepper met three decades ago in Washington, D.C., where they still spend half of the year. Both had joined the Capitol Hill Poetry Group, a group of writers who met once a week to critique each other’s poetry. Larkin said she began writing poems in earnest in the early 70’s, just when the women’s liberation movement was beginning to unleash a tide of new female writers. She belonged to an organization called “The Big Mama Poetry Troupe,” which traveled from New York to Chicago performing poetry readings, and she eventually got a position teaching writing at Howard University.

Pepper earned his livelihood as a process engineer and wrote poems in his spare time. Larkin said they were friends for 10 years before they became romantically involved. Now that they are married, they have in-house resources to draw on.

Larkin first came to the Cape on a camping trip in the 1960s and bought her house in Truro in 1977. She has been in love with the place from the beginning. “There’s no reason to live anywhere else on this earth. It’s my spiritual center, in a way.”

And Pond Road itself, a winding, scenic route in the historic Pond Village district, appears to be the natural launching point for the couple’s publishing venture. It has all the elements of a poem, Larkin said. “It’s musical. It’s odd, both in the human and the natural world. It’s full of imagery. It’s full of surprises and secrets. It’s lush but it’s also spare, and it’s got beautiful form.”

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