“…the sorts of literary productions I’ve sought out and valued all through my reading and writing life.” Russell Thornton, author of Stopping the Waves, Series Eighteen, 2017.
for Susan McCaslin
By J.S. Porter
David Zieroth is a fine poet who writes with precision and exactitude. Consider a few lines from his Governor General’s Literary Award winner for poetry in 2009, “The Fly in Autumn,” as an example. To set the scene, the speaker in the poem is about to move and has determined to give away his books so as not to be beholden to boxes and not be “schlepping old classics up new stairs./Better to hand them off one by one,/so novels to your sister, John Donne/to anyone who still says prayers.
Keep back a few, the special heroes
Of your heart…”
One of the special books in my heart is David Zieroth’s “Albrecht Dürer and Me,” a romp through Central Europe with stops in Vienna, Dubrovnik, and Graz, etc. The book fuses history, biography and autobiography so invitingly that you want to visit the city the poem is set in and the artist the poem pays tribute to.
My contact with David began with a beautiful gesture by my friend Susan McCaslin. She said something like, “John, why don’t you write to David Zieroth to see if he’d be interested in seeing some of your poems.” I took her suggestion to heart and ended up sending David about 40 unpublished poems. He took the ten or so that worked best for his chapbook series and organized the poems under the theme of reading (Of Wine and Reading, Series Fifteen, May 2016). He later published my Small Discriminations as a holm.
David is as interested in the work of others as he’s interested in his own work. He writes well, thinks clearly and makes things. He is a maker of small beautiful works on paper.
The experience with David –exchanging letters, his careful editing, his care in presenting a handsome physical object – turned out to be one of the great experiences of my writing life. He was unfailingly gracious and courteous and wise.
David Zieroth started The Alfred Gustav Press as a micro press for poetry to honour his father who worked a farm and read seasonally, usually in winter. In David’s own words: “I wanted to work with my hands and heart in a new way or, rather, in an old way, that is, I wanted to make objects that were lovely to hold, that were made by my hand using the technology available in my home (stalwart PC, laser jet, stapler, steel edge, blade, pen and colouring pencil). I wanted to touch each piece of paper in each chapbook. And I wanted the poems to touch others.”
David Zieroth is a man who cares deeply about poetry – the writing of it, the reading of it and the encouraging of others to read it and write it as well. David’s press is a homemade, handmade, heartmade production.
I’ve recently held Leona Gom’s 62 Billionaires… (The Alfred Gustav Press, Series 23, 2020) in my hands. Gom says this about her chapbook: It’s “an eclectic collection of poems written in response to non-fiction books I have read and enjoyed. The subjects vary greatly: architecture, political systems, biology, history, ecology, physics or whatever else happened to catch my eye in the library or bookstore.”
I’ve heard of poems, and read some of them, written in response to other poems, but this was the first time I’ve heard of poems written directly in response to non-fiction. Leona begins each poem with reference to the book she wants to engage.
Poems such as “Wood Wide Web,” “The Second Law of Thermodynamics” and “Ginkgo Biloba” expanded my scientific horizons and my appreciation of well-honed language.
– After reading Survivor Cafe, by Elizabeth Rosner
By Leona Gom
Six ginkgos, a thousand years old
the only living creatures left
within a kilometer of ground zero
in Hiroshima, their seeds now saved
as gifts of peace to other nations.
The ginkgo has no family tree,
no relatives, no cousinly branches,
so singular it needs a separate phylum,
so old its fossils date a quarter billion
years, so complex its genome DNA
is four times ours. All those millennia
of learning. Of silence and survival.
We will never hear what it knows.
When I read, I make notes (quotes, passages, thoughts I want to keep). When Gom reads, she makes poems, at least she does in her chapbook. She keeps the original text alive and her own responsive emotions and artistry alive. Seems like a really good way to read. A little bit of the other. A little bit of you. Intermingled. All in a small beautiful volume published by The Alfred Gustav Press.