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Review & Giveaway: The Lamps of History by Michael Sandler

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 98 pgs.
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The Lamps of History by Michael Sandler explores the human condition and our struggle to grapple with our own mortality. Sandler begins the collection with just that concept in “Gauze” where the narrator has surgery and as he goes under from anesthesia “Now breathe deeply, and I vanish,/a plastic wristband flashing Vacancy/” (pg. 9) There is that fear, especially as we age, that our lives will vanish and our bodies will be cast aside as empty shells.

It is easy for us to foster a myopic point of view — “Isolation arrests a point of view” (“Lighthousing”, pg. 19) But on occasion, changes in our view can help us see the best, like in the title poem, “Lamp,” where amber light can dull the anguish of the past. From bullying to loss, Sandler tackles many of the trials of the human condition, rooting his poems in recipes, family tradition, and advice from his father. While not all of these moments prevented sadness, anger, or loss, the narrator looks back on how each represented the care and love of family — a foundation that strengthened over time even as those family members passed.

from "Garlic Press" (pg. 44-45)

until desire flashes again.
What keeps drawing me to those blades?
When the ensuing sight of blood
subverts a show of nonchalance.
I try to take a firmer grip,
one more inexorable squeeze.

Sandler explores desire and how it draws us to things that may not be good for us. In the same collection, “Cenobite” explores shyness and antisocial behavior as the narrator walks in a dog park and finds that he’s unlike the social dogs, standing apart he fails at small talk and interacting. He needs to force himself to try to move beyond his neutral ground apart. There is a peace in aloofness and a camaraderie that can be found with animals alone.

The Lamps of History by Michael Sandler is about the human condition in all of its stripes of good and bad, memory and action. Sandler’s use of science, science fiction, and photographs helps to illustration of struggle, perseverance, and peace with what has come before and what awaits the future.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Michael Sandler is the author of The Lamps of History, a poetry collection that explores connections between personal and historical experience while wrestling with the ambiguities (and choices) between connection/estrangement and faith/doubt. For much of his adulthood, Michael wrote poems for the desk drawer, while working as a lawyer and later as an arbitrator. He began to publish in 2009. Since then, his poems have appeared in scores of literary journals including Arts & Letters, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Zone 3. He lives in the Seattle area. To learn more about Michael and his work, please go to sandlerpoetry.com.

GIVEAWAY: 1 copy of The Lamps of History

Leave a comment on this post about why you want to read the collection and an email where I can reach you by March. 8.

Mailbox Monday #617

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

Diary of a Pug: Pug’s Got Talent by Kyla May, purchased for my daughter as an award for being a Super Virtual Husky student.

Bub’s human, Bella, is putting on a pet talent show! Bub can’t wait to wow the audience with his skateboarding stunts, not to mention his snazzy costume. But when dress rehearsal doesn’t go as planned, Bub finds that it’s up to him — and his archenemy Duchess the cat — to make things right. Can he and Duchess work together to make sure the show goes on?

In the Lateness of the World by Carolyn Forché for review.

Over four decades, Carolyn Forché’s visionary work has reinvigorated poetry’s power to awaken the reader. Her groundbreaking poems have been testimonies, inquiries, and wonderments. They daringly map a territory where poetry asserts our inexhaustible responsibility to each other.

Her first new collection in seventeen years, In the Lateness of the World is a tenebrous book of crossings, of migrations across oceans and borders but also between the present and the past, life and death. The poems call to the reader from the end of the world where they are sifting through the aftermath of history. Forché envisions a place where “you could see everything at once … every moment you have lived or place you have been.” The world here seems to be steadily vanishing, but in the moments before the uncertain end, an illumination arrives and “there is nothing that cannot be seen.” In the Lateness of the World is a revelation from one of the finest poets writing today.

The Lamps of History by Michael Sandler for a TLC Book Tour.

The Lamps of History wrestles with the ambiguities–and choices–between connection/alienation, renewal/decay, and faith/doubt. Its poems explore dimming family histories and our stance toward them, the frayed bonds with our grandparents’ traditions and beliefs, and distances in our current relationships.

There are also poems on our civic estrangements: an ode to a papaya that spills into America’s tribal conflict; elegies to the environment (one on disappearing phytoplankton, another on forests ravaged by pine beetles); a ghazal to a semi-automatic weapon; and a failed recipe for noodle pudding.

Michael Sandler’s writing marshals wit and wordplay in a deft handling of language and form. The poetry navigates the crosscurrents of tradition and post-modernism, steering somewhat closer to the former.

Poet and editor George Bishop concludes: “This language is addictive. A stunning sense of place and story. To be read and read again.”

What did you receive?