In this new collection of essays, DEWITT HENRY draws on his 40-year career as an award-winning novelist, memoirist, editor, and teacher, as well as on the works of classical and contemporary literature that have served him as “equipment for living.” He develops a lexicon of 22 abstract terms, including Weather, Time, Handshakes, Privilege, and Empathy. He sifts the layered meanings of each term through research, wit, personal stories, literary quotations, and free association. His inspirations are Stephen Dedalus’s stream of consciousness and Hamlet’s soliloquies, as both in turn are inspired by Montaigne’s essays. Some terms suggest collective wisdom. Some invoke discoveries. Some reveal outmoded agendas and biases, or promise new ones. The adventure is in how, rather than in what, to think; and Henry’s terms of choice are salient to our culture and times, where too often they serve to prevent rather than to challenge original thinking.
In subtitling this book “A Divine Comedy,” the poet MARC VINCENZ brushes up against Dante, and yet he does so “in the pulse of a breath, /waiting for the rain / to wash away the dream.” There is light here―not perhaps the roseate of the Florentine retinue―but one we can use right now: “All visions / gone, but this, a world, / a world / dancing ahead.” Vincenz questions notions of humanity, the potency and power of language over time, implying perhaps that codes have driven us throughout history and that the emergence of the AI will yield the next stage in its evolution. After a long night of the soul, where formal religion yields to love and imagination, we emerge to a healing space that is both inner and outer, physical and spiritual. The Syndicate of Water & Light gives us a sense that we can grow in knowledge and that we can change―if not, perhaps, the world, then at least within ourselves.
Marc Vincenz is the author of eleven books of poetry; his latest are Becoming the Sound of Bees, Sibylline, The Syndicate of Water & Light and Leaning Into the Infinite. He is also the translator of Romanian, French and German-language poets including Herman Hesse Prize winner Klaus Merz, Werner Lutz, Maram al-Masri, Erica Burkart, Ion Monoran, Alexander Xaver Gwerder and Jacques Chessex, and has published many books of translations—the latest are Secret Letter by Erica Burkart and Lifelong Bird Migration by Jürg Amann. His translation of Klaus Merz’s Unexpected Development is forthcoming from White Pine Press. His novella, Three Taos of T’ao, or How to Catch a White Elephant, is soon to be released by Spuyten Duyvil. He has received grants from the Swiss Arts Council and a fellowship from the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin. Recent and forthcoming publications include The Nation, Ploughshares, Solstice, The Common, World Literature Today, Notre Dame Review and Raritan. His own work has been translated into several languages.
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.