In John Reibetanz’s tightly crafted new collection of poems, poetry and narrative are united with astonishing power and beauty. The collection first probes pivotal moments in the lives of his family, leading to a haunting prose memoir of the journey to his dying mother that recalls a “nomadic childhood” in flight from his mother’s withdrawal into illness, his adult secession from an America bent on war, then emigration to a more accommodating country. Following the same creative urge celebrated in his father-in-law’s cooking and the blues of Louis Armstrong, the poems then move into a world of intersecting fictional relations, unfolding an extraordinary range of characters. Their dilemmas are not solved but contained in luminous poems, at once spare and ample, whose clarity is born of precision. In these poem-stories of love, loss, and recovery, darkness often serves to intensify the light. Near Relations is the work of a poet compassionately engaged with the world, and one of our most accomplished lyric voices.
John Reibetanz is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently Near Relations and Transformations. In 2003 he was awarded First Prize in the international Petra Kenney Poetry Competition. Born in New York City, he lives in Toronto, where he teaches English at Victoria College.
“Reibetanz’s imagination has raided his abilities (an ear for music, a sure command of description) to produce poems that are uncanny in their ability to ‘read’ the world.…He is a poet capable of enormous poignancy.”
“Exceptional.… Whatever the theme taken on, the author’s poetic craft operates in full discovery mode, ever vital and fresh.”