Today’s blog post is a stop on George HS Singer’s Poetry Tour run by Poetic Book Tours, this Autumn. Last month, I received the poetry book, Ergon, for review. At first, even though I do love poetry, I wasn’t sure I’d have the time to finish reading it, but after securing an end-of-the-month date for the blog tour stop, I said “Yes.”
Ergon is a mix of poems about George HS Singer’s life as a monk and in the monastery and about his life after he left to marry and have a family. As he tries to balance his spiritual principles with every day life as a husband and father, these poems utilize nature as a backdrop for his quest.
Published by WordTech Editions, who describe this book as: “George Singer’s Ergon is precise, delicate and fierce in its engagement with the world.”, you can find the poetry book, on Amazon and on BookDepository, as well as his other publications which range in a myriad of topics from education & teaching, parenting & social sciences, to medical books.
My copy of the book arrived in the week before I left for holiday, and given it’s 86 pages long, I decided to take it with me. I’ve taken novels on holiday with me before and then after arriving home felt all sorts of bad about not having enough time to read more than a couple of chapters.
Well, Ergon was the perfect holiday read!
The book is composed of four parts: Visiting, Ergon, Our Quotidian and Immensity. They, in George’s own words, cover the themes of:
- “The beauty, humor, and difficulty of living as a Zen monk.
- Coming to terms with a very mixed childhood and its insistent residue.
- My sense of gratitude for having found a soul mate in my wife.
- My sense of the unutterable wonder of existence and that there is enough of it that can be taken in and joined with to keep from staying down after inevitably and repeatedly falling down.
the stars across the axis of the sky,
light enough to walk without stumbling.”
The poems aren’t too long, they can be read in a fast pace, and as you can see listed above, their themes are varied in complexity. I can honestly say I haven’t read a poetry book quite like this one before. The poems give the vibe of being written with such ease despite the depth and warmth carried through.
My boyfriend read some of the poems as well, we read together; and I highly recommend this book for any couple if they want something truly interesting to read and talk about curled up on the couch together.
Here’s the early praise for the book:
“Singer’s work is wise, vulnerable, empty and full, erotic and spiritual, intimate and lonely, his source of metaphor the keenly-witnessed natural world. Ergon is a book about abiding love but also illness, lobotomies, and long-held grief; its landscape is one in which the buffaloes with ‘eyes sad as Lincoln’s’ plow through the fence and break into the temple, where the Buddha is ‘poised with one palm open, one touching the trampled ground.’ Go to the forest or the shore and read this book, and while you’re at it, don’t underestimate the ferocity of these deeply adult and nuanced poems.”—Diane Seuss
“With his first book of poems, Ergon, George H. S. Singer takes his place among a rich tradition of California poets for whom the literary sphere is outlined not only in aesthetic terms but in natural, ethical, and spiritual dimensions as well. This humane poetic runs recently from Hass to Hirshfield, Snyder to Herrera, but traces its origins to the ethos of Aristotle, who defines ‘ergon’ as ‘the core function or purpose of something or someone’; virtue then ‘arises when ergon is realized fully.’ Singer is a maker of contemporary devotions out of the dross and commotion of a daily life—out of false teeth, frayed cords, mouse nests and into the sphere ‘of celestial fire where the souls / of extinct birds are turned into gems.’ It’s not alchemy but faith. It’s not caprice but capability to see the spirited world within the known one, capability to approach in language the ‘eternal silence of these spaces between the stars.’”—David Baker
“With dignity and that slight irreverence that convinces you he’s telling the truth, George Singer creates his rich, lucid poems about the core of our human condition, our Ergon. Moving, surprising, erotic and profound, Singer’s poems take us around the world and through personal history—from the unexpected humor of daily life inside a Buddhist temple to the terrible inverted logic of a sanitarium for the insane, or from a sexual spark in a long marriage, to eons of geological time. Ergon marks the debut of a splendid poet with a sensibility that might make you more observant, and far lighter on your mental feet. A person could get wise reading poems of such warmth and depth.”—Molly Peacock
More about the author:
George HS Singer is a former Zen Buddhist monk and student of Rev. Master Jiyu Kennett, lives with his wife of forty-two years in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he works as a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara. He was educated at Yale, Southern Oregon University, and the University of Oregon. He wrote poetry in college but took a twenty-year break before taking it up as a regular discipline. He has been a long term student of Molly Peacock and has had the opportunity to work with other marvelous poets through the Frost Place in Franconia, N.H. He writes about life in and out of a Zen monastery, trying to live mindfully in a busy and troubled world, his love of nature and of his wife. The arts have become more central to his life. Singer’s poems were published in the Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry.