I don’t often recommend poetry books on this blog but I have from time to time. Some of my readers will recall the amazing story of my posthumous connection with poet James Whitehead and his book The Panther for which I wrote the Forward–see “James Whitehead on The Panther,” where I relate the account, as well as the subsequent post, “Whitehead on Pantera: Poetic Remembrances.”
In this post I want to recommend a forthcoming poetry chapbook by my friend Chris Arvidson titled The House Inside my Head. I encourage my readers to pre-order this book, which comes out in May 20th, 2022. I have known Chris for over a decade. She and her husband, Henry Doss, have traveled around Israel with me and my wife Lori, but they have also excavated at our Mt Zion dig for three seasons. We have spent many hours together, bonding as life-long friends. Chris is a remarkable woman with a rich biography and many accomplishments, but both her paintings and her poetry really stand out. The cover of her new book I find simply stunning–one of her marvelous paintings.
The poems in this new book reflect a broad range of life and experiences. The pre-publication endorsements make it all the more tantalizing. This one, by Joseph Bathanti, particularly stuck me:
The volume’s speaker forensically catalogues a world that promises respite, a portal of illumination into that mythologized, longed-for “house,” yet a world that remains mysteriously indifferent. Joseph Bathanti, North Carolina Poet Laureate.
I prevailed on Chris to offer my readers a tiny glimpse at one of her poems with which I truly identify–having made 72 trips to Israel–most often to dig–quite literally–into the past. And of course, the city of Jerusalem–with its mystical reality and gritty 3000 year old complexity, is the one she choose. It captures so perfectly the feeling of our 5am jaunt from our hotel to our dig site so familiar to me in sight and sensual feelings, I find this one so moving:
We walked the quiet street before the sun came up.
In ’67, soldiers marched here
Not knowing they were winning that war.
A cool breeze teases us, but there is fierce heat to come.
Already my lungs feel dry inside and my socks in dusty boots
Look dirty, though I washed them hard last night.
Through the Damascus Gate and into the Old City
Darkness comes down as if it’s nightfall, rather than dawn.
The cobbles are wet from their morning bath.
We walk alone this early, stirring only the cats
Orange and white, gray and black, they are grubby
But clearly prospering, too.
Now up on the hill, just outside the Old City’s walls
At the Mt. Zion gate, I ready for the day’s work
Scraping through century after century of earth.
Off in the distance sits the Mount of Olives
And, just now, behind it, the glow of the sun rises
Bringing a new shine over this old, old city.
You can read much more about this book, about Chris, and how to order at the publisher’s web site: Finishing Line Press: The House Inside My Head. I hope you will preorder it today! It will arrive in May and make your Spring truly “sprung” as we move into the Summer of 2022–to which I am so looking forward!