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Dreaming at the Gates of Fury

The literary community suffered a great loss in late December with the death of Alexander "Sandy" Taylor, poet, publisher, and fierce proponent of the written word in the service of humanity. Sandy, co-founder of Curbstone Press, one of the nation's leading independent publishers, was a gifted visionary, a warm and unassuming man who dedicated his life to the written word.

As co-publisher at Curbstone, Sandy brought to the attention of North American readers the likes of Roque Dalton, Leonel Rugama, Daisy Zamora, Ernesto Cardenal, and other great poets and novelists of Central and South America. He discovered the gifted U.S. poets Luis Rodriguez and Martin Espada, and went on to pioneer the publishing of Vietnamese literature in this country — a veritable conversation between two once-warring cultures.

Sandy was a great poet, too, although that was a role that he remained very quiet about. He was published throughout Europe, and his last book in this country, Dreaming at the Gates of Fury, was published by Azul Editions, a New England-based publisher of politically conscious literature.

Sandy is survived by his partner and co-publisher Judith Doyle, and a world of readers who were introduced to the idea that literature could simultaneously be excellent and politically aware through his work. He will be missed.

(For more information on Sandy Taylor, his life, and work, visit Curbstone.org).

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Speaking of breathtakingly high quality political literature, celebrate with me the re-publication of Sonia Sanchez's American Book Award-winning Homegirls and Handgrenades by White Pine Press. This is a great, strong, heroic book, simply yet elegantly presented. These poems deal with drugs and violence, with hope and failure. They're by turn angry and tender, and love — both for the lover and for a greater good — informs the whole. Sanchez has had a long and illustrious career, and this early book, first published by Thunder's Mouth Press in 1984, simply burnishes her crown.

Frankly, I'm not sure how to categorize this book, and maybe that's okay, because often the best poetry is, simply, uncategorizable. Some of the poems are haikus, some relatively traditional free verse, and some are long almost-stories (like the phenomenal "Just Don't Never Give Up on Love"). But, here, you try it:

A Poem for Jesse

your face like
summer lightning
gets caught in my voice
and i draw you up from
deep rivers
taste your face of a
thousand names
see you smile
a new season
hear your voice
a wild sea pausing in the wind

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Okay, I'm too excited about this book to sit still until May!

Tim Winton, Australian author extraordinaire, has a new novel coming out, and I've been privileged to read an advance proof. Breath, soon to be published in hardcover by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, is simply phenomenal. I couldn't put it down.

It's the coming-of-age story of a young boy who gets initiated into the cutting edge of Australia's surfing culture. The description of scenery is luxurious, the states of mind this boy goes through are right on, and the scenes on the ocean are beyond thrilling! This is a book to savor and luxuriate in; it's damned near perfect.

There. You heard it here first.

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