Journeys Far and Near PDF Print E-mail

Journeys Far and Near:
Tanka Roads
by Sanford Goldstein
Inkling Press 2013
$25 (includes P&H)

A Review by a Robert D. Wilson

"My book is finished, perhaps the last one I will write. It all depends on fate and luck."

even the smile
on my Jewish face looks
I see my skeletal eyes
shouting monkey, monkey!

A recluse by choice, Sanford Goldstein lives in a mountain village in Japan. He will soon celebrate his 88th birthday. His days are spent taking walks, writing tanka at a nearby cafe, answering correspondence, and inhabiting the what of what his poems address. He is a translator, author, and retired professor. Like his tanka, Sanford Goldstein's life exudes depth, compassion, introspection, mystery, and a perception worth gleaning from. He is also my friend and mentor. We have corresponded for years. After reading his new book, I see nuances, shadings, and layers I hadn't fully fathomed before. Goldstein's book is aptly named: Journeys Far and Near. It is more than a book of poetry. It is a journey, one he is still making.

At 87, Goldstein still writes and explores life. Tanka is part of his being. Like Bashō and Shiki, he will compose poetry until Heaven's River takes him into the stars, some of which, perhaps, he sculpted with words that whisper, shout, and sing.  "Death where is thy sting?"
Even when this poet leaves us, his words will not. His words are indelible, alive, dancing in a tidal flow of becomingness (koto).

Sanford Goldstein's tanka affects me like few tanka written today do. His poems have depth, integrity, the ability to reach inside this reader/poet's soul. Most tanka composed today are forgettable, often banal. Goldstein's are anything but. His poetry is literature to be taken seriously by the mainstream academic world. Tanka lives, at least in Sanford Goldstein's pen. Tanka poets are advised to study and parse his tanka, to listen to its meter, the layers flowing from synapse to synapse, the song that is tanka, and the singer singing it. Not all singers sing well. Most remain un-noticed, unremembered, a karaoke performance come and gone. It is time tanka rise above the ashes of hobbyists, yuppies, and great pretenders whose books are a dime a dozen. Buy Sanford Goldstein's important new addition to the annuls of tanka poetry. It excels anything written today inside and outside of Japan.

These are excerpts from Goldstein's book. They need no introduction, commentary, or explanation. They'll speak to you individually and wrestle with you after you read them.
Savor, ruminate, and sense the unsaid permeating the said.

I lift
thin wooden hospital chopsticks
three meals a day,
have I become a green veggie,
a nameless fish-diddler?

no Dada
in my lines these forty years
of five-liners,
wanting now a jackass head
to mutter Cyrano manifestos

don't forget me
or leave me at coffee shops
or fail to return,
even these imaginary scenes
soul-ringing in their pain

at first I fail
to understand my friend's
I am a fish he mutters,
if the sea dies, he does too

again today
goals fell through tangled
I found I was left
with a now gone-stray

Chagall's love
stretched his body,
his mind,
like some unknown elegant bird
even in his ninety-seventh year

wondering now
if Prufrock's fragile heart
felt the chill of ice,
slow was his climb on those slippery chairs
leading to those mannequins of art

each day
for a month my trapped
I see it lodged in stone,
calling out Excalibur

St. Jerome
in Caravaggio's cave
with his quill,
it seems as if his entire core
was skull, was books

by my kitchen table
after a day of English gestures,
I face the wall,
I carry through some finger exchanges,
I lift a knife to pretend my end

each in his own world,
lonely figures bending over
eyes reading a wall,
mouths poking hole clusters

my soulmate
offers me his slight praise
taking my hand,
you are a washer of cups,
a writer of five-line poems

The last words in Goldstein's book are:
"It is time for this aging tanka poet to be silent."

No, my friend and mentor, it is not time for you to be silent. Your Poetic voice is needed now more than ever.

I read your
book today, and saw
you sipping tea . . .
a thousand egrets
lifting whiteness

robert d. wilson

Copies of Goldstein's important new book can be ordered via

Magpie Productions
P.O. Box 52014
Alberta, Canada T6G 2T5