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Own a piece of literary history.
Art is an organ of human life, transmitting one’s reasonable perception into feeling.
A real work of art destroys, in the consciousness of the receiver, the separation between oneself and the artist.
Founded twenty years ago by poet, memoirist, and clinical psychologist Joan Cusack Handler, CavanKerry Press has published fine literary work by established and emerging writers who explore the emotional and psychological aspects of what it is to be human through insightful, accessible writing. This unique collection features excerpts from each of the over 100 books in CavanKerry’s twenty-year publishing history and represents the deeply resonant writing for which the Press is known. Several authors in the CavanKerry library have gone on to find acclaim as poets laureate, Pushcart recipients, and winners of national prizes. Places We Return To is a collection of work of the highest caliber.
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Joan Cusack Handler
Founder and senior editor of CavanKerry Press, Joan Cusack Handler is a poet, memoirist, and psychologist. Her poems have received the Sampler Award from Boston Review and five Pushcart nominations. She is the author of four books, most recently, Orphans, and the editor of two additional collections. A Bronx native, she lives in Brooklyn and East Hampton, New York.
Gabriel Cleveland holds an MFA in poetry from Pine Manor College and is the managing editor for CavanKerry Press. He is a poet and fiction writer and mental health advocate, working to raise awareness, visibility, and money for psychological and psychosocial issues.
Just the way CavanKerry Press joyfully merges two Irish counties for its name, so its philosophy jubilantly combines Passion with Craft. Places We Return To is a treasure-chest retrospective featuring a single selection from each CavanKerry book published in the last two decades. Valuing emotion and all its secret sources, as well as those bursts of interior song that surprise us when we reach a wellspring, CavanKerry prizes the personal voice—knowing what a radical claim the personal voice can be and that the personal is the way to the universal. Such revelations abound in this celebratory anthology, produced with the stunning design that has distinguished the press from a zygote of an idea to its full, expansive, generous presence today. There’s another important fusing, too: each poet here became part of a CavanKerry family of authors, the splendid result of voice, line, and design that makes marvels of their books.
—Molly Peacock, author of Cornucopia: New and Selected Poems and The Analyst: Poems, and former president of the CavanKerry Board (2004–2009)
The poets of CavanKerry Press tap your shoulder and invite you into their living room. You can sit here and warm your hands on the different variants of what happens to humans, poem by poem, page by page, book by book, year by year. The best poems know how to catch experience and sing it true, and this book is filled with nothing but best poems. These gathered voices—old, young, rich, not so rich, urban, and rural—love verse and they love the world. The house CavanKerry builds in this anthology suits its mission to a T; there are rooms available for all of us to wander in. Think of our world. Now, think of our world without poetry. Now, open this book.
—Cornelius Eady, cofounder of Cave Canem
The collection you hold is a gift book. A gift to CavanKerry and ultimately a gift to its readers.
Most importantly, it is a gift to the CavanKerry writers who entrusted their manuscripts to us to do the sacred work of transforming them into fine books and art pieces. Without them, there would be no CavanKerry.
Nor would there be this celebratory book if it were not for a handsome donation from Susan Jackson, CavanKerry poet and author of Through a Gate of Trees. Susan asked that we use the gift for a program or event that would honor her late mother. I was/am humbled! Susan was entrusting us with the task of creating a fitting tribute to her beloved mother. How gratifying for us that she trusted CavanKerry with such a profoundly intimate and holy task!
I wanted this tribute to be something that Susan and I would choose together. We spoke of memorializing her mother by dedicating one of our upcoming titles to her. We spoke of an event that might celebrate CavanKerry’s twentieth anniversary. Finally, Susan proposed a book to celebrate our history. I mentioned that I had dreamed of creating a retrospective anthology of work from all of our 100+ books, but it was beyond CavanKerry’s reach financially because we were already in the process of publishing our full commitment of books for the year. Susan loved that idea. I was overjoyed.
The first step was to enlist Gabriel Cleveland, CavanKerry’s Managing Editor, a gifted editor, to share this work. We’d include one piece of poetry or prose from each of our books. Gabe asked the writers to name five favorite pieces from their books, and those we didn’t have author preferences for, I reread and sent Gabe several choices from which he made preliminary selections. Following that, we chose the final pieces. It was an inspiring collaboration for both of us.
When we began the project, the COVID-19 pandemic was barreling its way across the globe. To combat it, mandatory quarantine was instituted. For months, we were instructed not to go out of our homes except for food or in an emergency.
How does one fill those days? We started to read. And read. And read some more. Such joy to meet these poems, memoirs, and essays again! I was falling in love for the second time with the masterful, emotionally driven work that CavanKerry has published.
Despite the anxiety and terror that accompanied the pandemic, I was whisked away for several hours daily to an idyllic healing place—one filled with poems and prose pieces published by CavanKerry, in some cases, as many as 15 to 20 years ago. Such affirmation, such nourishment!
All gifts. Offered by our writers. Gifts we accepted with pride and assurance that we’d make the same decision all over again many years hence. The gift of this collection from a CavanKerry poet who wanted to memorialize her mother—a gift to savor as CavanKerry continues to mature into the soulful lover/publisher of fine literature that she is destined to be.
Happy 20th anniversary, CavanKerry Press!
Blessings and good health to all of you, our readers and friends, to Susan and
her late mother, to our extraordinary writers! We are ever grateful to you.
—Joan Cusack Handler, Coeditor, Publisher
by Robert Cording
His children came as if their own good health could restore
his. He lost a little more each week, the tumor taking
his legs and then the memory of what just happened
moments ago. Still, he made not walking as matter-of-fact
as walking, found jokes in his forgetting. “Hello,” he’d say,
picking up the phone, “You’ve just reached Bob’s
Brain Tumor Clinic; leave a message and he may or may not
get back to you.” How quickly he learned to help them again,
as if, as their father, there were these last things to do.
When pain flashed in his eyes, then drained away,
his children could see how their wanting him, even as he was,
would give them no peace. When he slept, they watched
him move inside his dream as if he were mapping
the circumference of everything he was taking leave of—
the newly planted weeping cherry just outside
the front door, the crocus and daffodils he forgot
the names of, and further off, the city he loved, bodiless
clouds skimming its horizon of buildings. Near the end,
papers came and went with the daily news, and faces,
each becoming another and another, flowing past him
like leaves on a childhood river. Half in delirium, he’d speak
of someone he couldn’t see who kept coming for him.
Before he went, he waited for his children to come and say
goodbye. And when he was gone, they gathered
around him, and looked into his face, and touched the scar
on the back of his head where the tumor divided
the father they knew into bits and pieces. And each of them
found they had the strength to lift and hold his head
in their hands one last time, its weight the size of a world.
by January Gill O’Neil
A gray hoodie will not protect my son
from rain, from the New England cold.
I see the partial eclipse of his face
as his head sinks into the half-dark
and shades his eyes. Even in our
quiet suburb with its unlocked doors,
I fear for his safety—the darkest child
on our street in the empire of blocks.
Sometimes I don’t know who he is anymore
traveling the back roads between boy and man.
He strides a deep stride, pounds a basketball
into wet pavement. Will he take his shot
or is he waiting for the open-mouthed
orange rim to take a chance on him? I sing
his name to the night, ask for safe passage
from this borrowed body into the next
and wonder who could mistake him
for anything but good.
by Maureen Seaton
Wonder what I’d be today if I was still married to my Wall Street
husband besides married to a Wall Street husband and puking gin
in a silk sheath outside Delmonico’s. I might be a size 4. I might
be a secret Democrat or a weekend lesbian. This morning five planes
flew over the yard in a V as I was about to dig into a pile of lavender
pancakes al fresco. The V flew low and slow. It flew loud and ominous.
It alarmed me, sounding a lot like the war movies of my fifties’ childhood.
My cranky Chihuahua was proverbially biting at flies and I sat there
not thinking about hate. Recently, I experienced life with cancer. An
intoxicating time, richly infused with the liquor of death, but good too
because no one expected much of me and I was left to my own mind,
which is what I’m missing most these days. Unless that’s it over there,
screeching on two wheels around the racetrack. Today I typed gnos
instead of song and I wondered if it was some new app designed
to mess with me. I’ve never thought to call the world sweet before.
Surviving something can do that, make things taste different.
Suddenly you’re a hero/ine. All this devastation—
and you’re still standing in the middle of it.
Places We Return To
Edited by Joan Cusack Handler & Gabriel Cleveland
Pub date – January 5, 2021
Trade paper – 8.5 X 9.25″
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Joan Cusack Handler – Foreword
Susan Jackson – Homage to My Mother
Howard Levy – Jackson, Mississippi, 1966 – 1
Karen Chase – The Swim – 2
Peggy Penn – may evening – 3
Judith Emlyn Johnson – From Re/Membering the Goddess: Carolyn Kizer and the Poetics of Generosity – 4
Donald Hall – The Breath of Parted Lips: Voices from the Robert Frost Place, Volume I, Foreword – 6
Robert Cording – Last Things – 8
Martin Mooney – The General – 9
Mary Ruefle – The Pedant’s Discourse – 10
Moyra Donaldson – Exile – 11
Sondra Gash – Bread and Roses (Morris) – 13
Sherry Fairchok – Near Rats and the Devil – 15
Steven B Rogers – From Stories I Have Listened To – 16
Kenneth Rosen – The Alligator’s Hum – 18
Joan Cusack Handler – Gravy – 19
Christopher Matthews – Child and Mother – 20
Eloise Bruce – The Solid Body – 21
Celia Bland – Maternity – 22
Georgianna Orsini – Parts of Speech – 23
Sydney Lea – From Democracy, the Spirit, and Poetic Passion – 24
Catherine Doty – “For May Is the Month of Our Mother” – 26
Joan Seliger Sidney – Laps – 28
Elizabeth Hall Hutner – Prayer – 30
Christian Barter – The Singers I Prefer – 31
Laurie Lamon – When You Tell Me – 32
Andrea Carter Brown – Your Dream – 33
Robert Cording – The Weeper – 34
Richard Jeffrey Newman – After Drought – 35
Jack Wiler – New Year’s Eve – 36
Ross Gay – Pulled Over in Short Hills, NJ, 8:00 a.m. – 37
Robert Seder – From To the Marrow – 38
Mark Nepo – The Edge – 39
Susan Jackson – The Man Who Could Not Talk about the War – 41
Joseph O Legaspi – Imago – 42
Christine Korfhage – Picture Perfect – 44
Teresa Carson – Autopsy Report – 45
Karen Chase – The Book of Crime – 47
Baron Wormser – From Gregory Corso, b 1930 – 48
Sam Cornish – Elegy – 49
Joan Cusack Handler – Hands – 50
Phoebe Sparrow Wagner – My Mother Was Medea – 51
Bhisham Bherwani – CANT / DESCANT – 52
Laurie Lamon – Anne Frank Exhibit – 53
Jack Ridl – At Fifty – 54
Nin Andrews – Bathing in Your Brother’s Bathwater – 55
January Gill O’Neil – Early Memory – 56
Susan Jackson – Waiting – 57
John Haines – From Readings from an Alaskan Journal – 59
Marie Lawson Fiala – From Mirror, Mirror – 61
Dawn Potter – Heavy Metal – 63
Jack Wiler – Divina Is Divina – 64
Robert Cording – Without End – 66
Gray Jacobik – 18 – 67
Baron Wormser – Travel – 68
David S Cho – Night Sessions – 69
Marcus Jackson – Kiss – 71
Peggy Penn – Cello Suite – 73
Judith Hannan – From Motherhood Exaggerated – 75
Carole Stone – Running Boards – 76
Kevin Carey – Memory Boys – 77
Paola Corso – From Step by Step with the Laundress – 78
Michael Miller – Scars – 79
Joan Cusack Handler – Only Water and No People – 80
Rachel Hadas – From The Waiting Room Reader, Volume II, Editor’s Note – 81
Wanda S Praisner – Portrait of a Young Man – 83
Shira Dentz – Circumflex – 84
Sarah Bracey White – From Primary Lessons – 85
Adriana Páramo – From Mariquita – 87
Dawn Potter – Home – 88
Howard Levy – The Steam of Tea – 89
David Keller – Classified – 91
Teresa Carson – Fitted Sheets – 92
Annie Boutelle – Alternative – 93
January Gill O’Neil – Zebra 94
Loren Graham – Episode of the Encyclopedia Salesman – 95
Brent Newsom – January 2009: For Anthony – 96
Pam Bernard – From Great Divide – 98
Baron Wormser – Leaving – 99
Robert Cording – Angel – 100
Robin Silbergleid – An Open Letter to Frida Kahlo – 101
Joan Cusack Handler – From Inoperable – 102
Sandra M Castillo – Photograph – 103
Donald Platt – This Happened – 104
Kevin Carey – Reading to My Kids – 105
Jeanne Marie Beaumont – Portrait with Closed Eyes – 106
Christopher Bursk – A Car Stops and a Door Opens – 107
Tina Kelley – Yawp – 108
Nin Andrews – God’s Mistake (Gil) – 109
Joseph O Legaspi – Chelsea Piers – 110
Cindy Veach – How a Community of Women – 111
Danny Shot – Allyson, – 112
Sarah Sousa – To the Comedian Who Called Thelma and Louise Two White Heifers – 113
Judith Sornberger – This Autumn Morning Arrays Itself – 114
Harriet Levin – Smoke – 115
January Gill O’Neil – Hoodie – 116
Maureen Seaton – Sweet World – 117
Margo Taft Stever – Splitting Wood – 118
Cati Porter – Taking My Time – 120
Robert Cording – After – 121
Kari O’Driscoll – From By Heart – 122
Gray Jacobik – 20 – 124
Fred Shaw – Argot – 125
Kevin Carey – Set in Stone – 127
Frannie Lindsay – Bead – 128
Tina Kelley – A Dozen Secrets from God – 129
CavanKerry Press Author Bios
CavanKerry Press Mission Statement
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