By Brian Culhane
With remarkable erudition, the poems in Brian Culhane's Remembering Lethe explore the way classical history and legend may illuminate modern life. Thus the title poem links a son's poignant visit to his mother, suffering dementia, to the myth of Lethe, the river in classical mythology from which dead souls drink to forget their past lives. A pervading theme is the might and character of literature itself, and how it can lead to deep personal insights and beauty, even in the midst of wars, political repression, and censorship. This insightful and masterfully crafted collection is a worthy finalist for the 2020 Able Muse Book Award.
Brian Culhane is a poet whose work leaps across classical myths and World War II history; across poetic forms that shimmer with innovation; across loss and love and the deep river of Lethe, the river in Hades that causes forgetfulness. In our culture, in this time, we forget a lot of things. “You’ll perhaps cross the abyss / Between words, though no margin of safety’s promised us,” Culhane writes, and the journey of Remembering Lethe is one into a language and imagination so alive and generous that it beckons to, and then surprises and engages, every reader. This book is a consolation and an inspiration.
—Frances McCue, author of The Bled
Brian Culhane’s poetry is a form of knowledge, and its truth and beauty as art would be recognizable at any time, in any era. The title Remembering Lethe presents us with the riddle of poetry itself. Lethe, the classical river of forgetfulness, may erase the memory of everything except the very poetry that created it. Reflecting a lifetime of reading, teaching, and writing, the poems in this book merge with their subjects in classical proportions, formed by a lyric impulse the poet calls in one poem “two parts darkness, one part song.” Darkness may sometimes shadow these poems, but joy illuminates each of them in the end.
—Mark Jarman, author of The Heronry
In “A Crack in the Amphora,” just one of the many formally masterful, richly probing, and movingly resonant poems in Remembering Lethe, Brian Culhane enjoins the reader to “squeeze your eyes through / Past the dry outer world of painted clay,” to find “a corridor leading away / From light,” into the interior the sculptor’s “palm knew / As wet, before any votive oil splashed in.” Here, in a manner exemplary of this poet’s ingenious imaginative powers, the poem opens to a world vital with allusion and pervasively attuned both to “the core of darkness” and to the world at hand with which, as he says elsewhere, “the longhand of thought” also must contend. Culhane’s poems are unapologetically literate, inclusive in their pursuit of emotional and intellectual truth, and rare in their responsiveness to what is most necessary for the art.
—Daniel Tobin, author of Blood Labors
Brian Culhane’s The King’s Question (Graywolf Press, 2008) won the Poetry Foundation’s Emily Dickinson Award for a first book by an author over fifty. His poems have appeared widely in such journals as the Hudson Review, the New Criterion, the New Republic, and the Paris Review. After getting his MFA at Columbia University, he received a PhD in English literature from the University of Washington, where he focused on epic literature and the history of criticism. The recipient of fellowships from Washington State’s Artist Trust, MacDowell, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, he now divides his time between New York’s Catskills and Seattle.
Copyright © 2022, Many Words Press
Web design & hosting by ApplauZ Online