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Volume 15, Issue 24 ~ June 14 - June 20, 2007

Between the Covers

Michael Glaser: Being a Father

Maryland’s Poet Laureate writes the art of fatherhood

Reviewed by Carrie Madren


Late at night we stand over you,
curious fathers

watching the dreams you dream
unfurl across your brows.

Your breath heaves in the cradle
of your covers

the dreams you dream
crown you other.

We walk in the waking of the night,
in our own breathing, in our own cover.

From a loose tooth to a scared child’s nightmare to his teen daughter’s first solo drive, Maryland Poet Laureate Michael Glaser distills the essence of fatherhood in beautiful brevity in Being a Father.

The father of five grown children, Glaser — English department chair at St. Mary’s College of Maryland — has collected poems narrating the span of time he’s spent with his children, from births through childhoods and finally, to independence. In everyday language, he reports the changing course of love.

“Poetry can affirm and encourage us in our efforts to live significant lives,” writes Glaser of being poet laureate.

In Being a Father, Glaser discovers significance in life’s big milestones and small steps.

“I think a poem in that book can evoke the parent in readers, the whole emotional realm inside that we have a hard time honoring in our culture,” said Glaser in a 2004 Bay Weekly interview. “It evokes a sharing of our humanness.”

No matter what your literary background, you’ll know what these poems are talking about; his purity of feeling touches depths we all understand without sending us wondering through secret passages that need a scholar’s interpretation.

Glaser is a laureate of his people, giving words to the wonder, pain, worry, joy and contentment we all feel but can’t express, sculpting our feelings into the preserved moments of poem.

He tells us lyrical stories of the moments we treasure, the more in their passing. Close descriptions of the moments of family life become meditations on being fully present. His images are the sacred objects of everyday life: the ponytail, shoes, garbage day, pet goldfish:

and what do I know, really,
of that goldfish, or this night

or my son, climbing his own dark paths,
seeking his own true light.

—The Shape of Things:

Rhyme is a part of the art of poetry, and Glaser hides it in his poems, carefully avoiding sing-song sentimentality. His playful rhymes — often in a concluding couplet — shape the poems like bows tied on presents. These rhymes also tickle us readers, as they do in the final stanzas of “Shoes”:

doing the best I can
in the shoes I have put on,
lumbering around left foot, then right,
so clever, so filled with delight.

Rhythm is another hidden part of his artistry, singing us line to line effortlessly, apparently artlessly, as in “Before the 3am Feeding”:

and your lips,
clinging to the side
of my thumb,

make me wish once again
for an ocean of things
I can never become.

Glaser has organized these 50 poems into three sections: Squinting Against the Light, The Curator of Dreams and In Its Thinness the Air Is Full. They trace a journey from taking hold to letting go. It is a light and heavy journey. For Glaser this thin book is its souvenir. For fathers not so far along, it is a map to the road ahead. It could be the perfect Father’s Day gift for the young father in your life.

Being a Father: $12.95 (includes postage & handling) to: Seasonings Press, Box 1, St. Mary’s City, MD 20686-0001.

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2006 Book Reviews

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