Preparing the Apology : Poems by Mike Graves ISBN : 978-81-951915-0-5 2021 pp 88 Demy. CoverArt by Vivian Tsao
Mike Graves evokes empathy and in so doing, rises to a transpersonal plane. His is a great gift, speaking of people in poems that become poetry about all our own lives. Here’s a book to take personally–a book to enjoy and share.
– Dr. David B. Axelrod, Poet Laureate, author of All Vows
Mike Graves’s longstanding and outstanding contributions as an arts administrator, notably the series of readings he has masterminded, have been invaluable. In his new book, Preparing the Apology, he extends his previous contributions as a poet in his own right through moving dialogues between mythological and spiritual worlds on the one hand and the gritty details of everyday life on the other. All these worlds are evoked through subtle sound effects and images like one of my favorites in the book, “ You might pound on the doors of his words / While the meaning lay like a drunkard in stupor / Behind them forever.”
– Heather Dubrow, John D. Boyd, SJ Chair in Poetic Imagination, Fordham University & Author, Lost and Found Departments, Poetry Collection
Michael Graves writes startling poems employing arresting imagery that is precise yet expansive. He’s the master of presenting his desires, doubts, dreams, and dreads in exact, deliberate language that is always working towards a deeper clarity, a “stepping inward,” as he remarks in one of his poems. In Preparing the Apology, Graves crystalizes the heightened moments in life: his fears, longings, dead ends, conflicts, betrayals, and missed opportunities, offering “generous praise” for all outsiders, especially the dispossessed, misfits, and washouts, who are always winking from the shadows beyond midnight of city streets, park benches, and empty churches that comprise the backgrounds of these poems. Out of his never-ending argument with death and God emerges Graves’ most poignant revelations concerning the Sisyphean nature of our struggle as human beings in poems that neither provide facile answers nor useless prayers. These poems are self-effacing, serious, urgent. They risk everything; their honesty is exacting and terrifying. They express the great arc of human life from exultation in ecstasy to desolation in grief. But, above all, they find redemption through loving acts!
– Bill Wolak, poet, collagist, photographer, author, Love Poems the Hands: Selected Love Poems
Michael Graves’ poems in Preparing the Apology combine an unflinching look into the darkest corners of life, and a kind of caustic wit in response to what the poet finds there. The title poem illustrates Graves’ dark humor: the limp “apology”, thrice repeated, contrasts hilariously with the lover’s warmth and energy, with the evocation of lust and lust spent, a sly kind of self-awareness. The dark visions of “Sisyphus Hill” – the terror at the “Hawk-Father” and the bleak despair of the myth – are immediately countered by the perfect aptness of the poet-Sisyphus “Lugging a tombstone / To the top.” There is a kind of resignation here, but also mysteries both sacred and profane – Judas forgiving Christ, someone on the way to work suddenly “Expecting to fly”, the poet seeking “A sense of grateful wonder” – as well as precise and economical portrayals of people (“Dusk”), place (“Departure”), and sensations like a cat’s purr (“A Graceful Celebrant”). And there is much more here – this collection repays repeated reading.
– Chris Brandt, Americsn poet and translator
Reading Michael Graves’ poetry brought me back to my days in college, studying poets and poetry, wishing I could master the art that flowed from the WORDs. Mr. Graves has accomplished this feat with his work. His use of precise language creates images bringing the reader into his observations, memories, and introspections portrayed in snapshots of life. He wields his art well, saying the most with the least. Readers will find his poems deep, thought provoking, and at a measured pace. Poets, students of poetry, and lovers of poetry will find Michael Graves’ Preparing the Apology a remarkable read.
– Peter V. Dugan, Nassau County Poet Laureate 2017-19
Michael Graves is a poet old and young, old and new. He has a past, a memory, a sharp eye and a good ear, a thing about snakes and a foxy way with rhyme, an American’s voice, an Irish-American’s family issues, and an Irish-American’s lapsed Catholic’s history of uneasy commerce with guilt and the Four Last Things
– John Gordon, Professor Emeritus University of Connecticut
Written over a quarter of a century, these poems reflect a consistent poetic voice and the best of Michael Graves. He balances metaphor and theme to provide a powerful and convincing perspective on the perduring pyschological struggles of being.
– A. Nicholas Fargnoli, President, The James Joyce Society, Professor of Religion and English, Molloy College
Michael Graves’ poetry seems to me to be genuine. I say that cautiously, for though lots of talented people write verse, perhaps even poetry there are only few who qualify as genuine literary artists with a strong sense of commitment to their role as poets. I think that Michael Graves is one of them.
– Maurice Beebe, Founding Editor, The Journal of Modern Literature
Michael Graves is the author of four chapbooks, two of which are digital, and three full-length collections. The chapbooks are Outside St. Jude’s (R. E. M.,1990), Blatnoy (madhattersreview3.com, 2005), Illegal Border Crosser (Cervena Barva, 2008), and Fifteen Villanelles (Robert Perron.com 2020). The full-length books are Adam and Cain and In Fragility (Black Buzzard, 2006, 2011) and A Prayer for the Less Violent Offenders: Selected Short Poems of Mike Graves (Nirala, 2017). He has published fifteen poems in The James Joyce Quarterly and has read from his “Joycean Poems” to a gathering of the James Joyce Society at the Gotham Book Mark, April 12, 2002. His poem “Apollo to Daphne” appears in Gods and Mortals: Modern Poems on Classical Myths (Oxford, 2001) The Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation awarded him a grant in 2006. He organized the conference, Baptism by Fire: The Work of James Wright at Poets House, NY (March 27, 2004). And he has been coordinating and hosting the Phoenix Reading Series for about twenty years.
Taiwan born, American painter Vivian Tsao has exhibited her oils and pastels at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Butler Institute of American Art, Tenri Cultural Institute, Queens Museum, The National Arts Club and Ceres Gallery in the U.S. She has also exhibited at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts and The National Museum of History in Taiwan. Based in New York, Tsao received an M.F.A. degree in painting from Carnegie Mellon University. A recipient of the Artist-in-Residence grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, her art and writings in both Chinese and English have appeared in books such as Pratik Magazine in Nepal in 2019, 100 New York Painters by Cynthia Dantzic and Paintings by Vivian Tsao published by the National Museum of History.