Paul Cummins: The Collected Poems

January 7, 2019

Paul Cummins, a renown educator and social justice activist, entered the world of poetry in 1966 while writing a doctoral dissertation on the poetry of twice pulitzer prize winning Richard Wilbur at USC. This book, selected from the nearly 600 poems written between 1966-2017, since then, offers a clear and often inspiring voice, with brilliant and sacred imagery all the while allowing for uncommon accessibility. This volume includes sonnets, prose poems, odes as well as various metered, and stanzaic poems.

Cummins, likens the absolute quiet that he requires to create as his own mini temple. Where usually the act of creation is deliberate, sometimes it startled Cummins: “Sometimes, poems just appear, such as ‘Red Rover’ which wrote itself in the my head while driving, and I had to pull over on the side of the rode to capture it.”

In addition to poems about everyday life, the subjects of this selection occasionally delve into literature and history as in “HCE: A Son-Not (?)”, and “Endsandbeginsand,” each providing a nod to Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, in addition to war poems featuring subjects from Buchenwald to Nagasaki to Vietnam.

Cummins offers a rare blend of depth and accessibility. These poems, besides addressing the core issues of human experience, offer genuine aesthetic treats – unusual forms, rhyme and rhythm in synch, assonance and imagery. Even in poems seemingly simple, there is artistry to enjoy.