Anthology by Alvin Conway – The Interview

Majestic and beautiful…full of wonder, intellect, and charm...” – NY First Look

Whoever said poetry was dead and wasn’t what people in our modern world read anymore couldn’t be more wrong. We’ve come across a collection of poems that has simply stunned us. Anthology, the fifteenth book written by Alvin Conway, is majestic and beautiful. You’ll find yourself holding the book and just staring at the cover for ten minutes before you ever open it. Anthology is a true work of art. This book is full of wonder, intellect, and charm.

Reading Anthology, one gets the feeling that they just might’ve stumbled across a lost or forgotten work by Lord Byron or perhaps Oscar Wilde that just happened to be hiding out in someone’s attic. Mr. Conway’s poetic mastery of the English language in the modern and ancient vernacular is impressive. His verses are as colorful as they are passionate. Consider this exquisitely penned verse from his poem, Ancient Love Affair:

Or the eloquence expressed by a dying Greek solider who is mortally wounded  in battle and stumbles into a field of flowers, where he meets and falls in love with a young maiden in the poem Anemone:

Or the quest for beauty so wonderfully expressed in his poem, Sometimes:

Anthology is that kinda of a wonderful book. Mr. Conway certainly has a gift for poetic expression and that’s what makes this book so classical and endearing in our opinion. He even wrote a libretto for Belinni’s opera La Sommanbula , a poetic rendering for Listz’s classical Liebesträume , and composed a poetic reworking of the song, Habanera from Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen. 

It’s easy to lose oneself in the enchantment of Anthology’s poems which unfold like a series of lost myths, fairy tales, and legends strung across eons of time. Unrequited love, heartbreak, the quest for true love, the allure of nature, the transformation of beauty, the eloquence of form, and imagination as an authentic source of aesthetic experience – all these themes are explored here with such depth, poetic beauty, and intensity that we can’t help but feel Anthology is one of those seminal literary work by a western writer that is destined to become a literary classic.

Anthology, 532 pages – The Rose Diary (abridged version), 54 pages

We took time off from our New York literary circuit of books, pages, and pen to paper to briefly talk with author Alvin Conway about his latest project – a beautiful new collection of his poems called Anthology.   – Rachel Thomas 

NY First Look: We’ve never seen a collection of poems quite like this. I was impressed with the breadth and scope of the poems…their exquisite richness and texture. There are so many beautiful ones. I think people are going to have an enchanting time both reading this and flipping through the pages of this book. It’s already a fan favorite among the staff. Anthology is really beautifully illustrated from cover to cover.

AC: Thank you. What comes from the heart goes to the heart.

NY First Look: You see poetry differently than most  modern authors and poets, at least that’s the way you appear to write about it. Would you say that’s a correct assessment?

AC: I don’t know if I see it differently or I just express it differently. To me, it’s all about passion. Not just from feeling but also from experience. I see the poem as artistic composition. Therefore it has an almost infinite dimension of creative expression. I draw from the past and I filter it through my own experiences. Words can just be words, like music can just be noise but it’s the order and the aesthetics arrangement of themes in art and life that truly creates beauty.

NY First Look: What poets influenced you?

AC: I love the Romantic poets: William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George Gordon Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats. I also love Homer, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Poe, Emily Dickinson, and Sara Teasdale.

NY First Look: Anthology is a very intriguing read with more than 500 poems. What inspired you to compose such a prolific volume of work?

AC: I thought it was time to take all the new material I’ve written, as well as the selections from the five poetic books I wrote over the last five years and compile them into one definitive masterwork. I think readers will have a more comprehensive view of my poetry given the tapestry and nature of the poems, their subject matter, and the fact that each of the books from which the selections were initially drawn are all interrelated.

NY First Look: You explore a lot of fascinating themes in your book Anthology from Opera to Classical music from the Hero mythos to Greek Classicism, from fairy tales to time travel, from love and loss to Romanticism. Why are these themes such compelling subjects for you, as a writer?

AC: Poems are a very unique way of telling a story, while expressing sentiment in the beauty and nuances of the transcribed language. Poems give structure to form, much like music elevates the life of lyrics. Poems artistically fall somewhere between a story and a song. It’s a ballet of words with meter and rhythm without the music. Poetry is the thunder of passion that is quietly quelled by the gentle, cool rain of contemplation. Poems are floral vignettes, or at least that’s the way I’ve always seen them. If passion is the electricity of life and love then I must say I’m fascinated by our drives and what fuels desire, fear, hope, love, emotional expression, obsessions and addictions. In my mind, poetry is the perfect canvass for such a colorful palette of human responses to life.

NY First Look: Do you have a favorite poem in the book?

AC: I have several. They generally resonate with the mood I’m in at the time. However, Parisina is one I definitely adore.

Where to buy Anthology by Alvin Conway: Lulu

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby. The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt that is now aching almost incessantly in her mind. Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her.   -GR

October: The Story of the Russian Revolution by China Miéville

Miéville (The Last Days of New Paris) marks the centenary of Russia’s dual 1917 revolutions with this vivid and insightful study of the journey from the February Revolution, which “dispensed breakneck with a half-millennium of autocratic rule,” to Lenin’s October triumph. Situating these eight turbulent months within the city of St. Petersburg, the czarist capital and the birthplace of the uprisings, Miéville writes that the story is “above all the story of its streets.” He leads readers through these streets and the complicated relationships between competing, and often violently opposed, groups of radicals—old and new Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries, and others—from workers’ strikes through Lenin’s proclamation of socialism and Russian withdrawal from WWI. Miéville is fully aware of the horrors that followed this massive achievement but convincingly argues that the Russian Revolution’s “degradation was not a given”; its formative moments carried immense potential for every kind of human liberation, which could so easily have become the dominant force of the new order. As an acclaimed storyteller with a doctorate in political philosophy and a commitment to leftist activism, Miéville is an ideal guide through this complex historical moment, giving agency to obscure and better-known participants alike, and depicting the revolution as both a tragically lost opportunity and an ongoing source of inspiration. (May)

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch

While delivering an entirely new world and also putting forth a powerful treatise on the way we live now, The Book of Joan is one of those dystopian novels that you can’t help thinking might be too eerily real to be just fiction. Where you’ve heard her name before: Lidia Yuknavitch. She’s the author of The Small Backs of Children and The Chronology of Water.

Goodreads synopsis: In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. Fleeing the unending violence and the planet’s now-radioactive surface, humans have regrouped to a mysterious platform known as CIEL, hovering over their erstwhile home. The changed world has turned evolution on its head: the surviving humans have become sexless, hairless pale-white creatures floating in isolation, inscribing stories upon their skin. Out of the ranks of the endless wars rises Jean de Men, a charismatic and bloodthirsty cult leader who turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unite to dismantle his iron rule—galvanized by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her and communes with the earth. When de Men and his armies turn Joan into a martyr, the consequences are astonishing. And no one—not the rebels, Jean de Men, or even Joan herself—can foresee the way her story and unique gift will forge the destiny of an entire world for generations.  -Goodreads

The Identicals by Elin Hiderbrand

Synopsis: Harper Frost is a laid-back, easygoing no-care in the world girl. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. She likes a beer and a shot and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything fashionable. She’s inherited her father’s rundown house on Martha’s Vineyard, but she can’t hold down a job, and her latest romantic disaster has the entire island talking.

Elin Hiderbrand serves up another beach book that should be a nice addition to your light-summer reading list. Martha’s Vineyard is the perfect setting for this prissy-prance novel about a bohemian that threatens to overturn the Island’s last lingering social mores.  Exactly what this new comer brings is, well the crux of the book, but suffice it to say she plans a no-side-stepping girl-whirl on the upper crust socialites who call Martha’s Vineyard the last untouched Hemmingwayish type beach oasis left in America.  -Robin Wessler

It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is cool too) by Nora McInerny Purmort

It's Okay to LaughThis book is a satirical look at life through the rainy eyes of a dozen tears. The young head-strong Nora McInerny Purmort bounced from boyfriend to boyfriend and job to job like a bad check. Her life was little more than homage to the hamster on the wheel. Then she met Aaron, a charismatic art director and her kindred spirit. They made mix tapes (and pancakes) and had rumbling conversations into the wee hours of the morning. They finished each other’s sentences. They just knew what they knew. When Aaron was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer, they refused to let it limit their love. They got engaged on Aaron’s hospital bed and married after his first surgery. They had a baby when he was on chemo. They shared an amazing summer filled with happiness and laughter. A few months later, Aaron died in Nora’s arms in another hospital bed.

His wildly creative obituary, which they co-wrote together, ignited a flame of sentiment and touched the world. Now, Nora shares hysterical, moving, and painfully honest stories about her life journey with Aaron. It’s OK to Laugh explores universal themes of love, marriage, work, (single) motherhood, and depression through her refreshingly frank viewpoint. It’s okay to look back at life in the review mirror. A love letter to life, in all of its messy glory, and what it’s like to still be kickin’, It’s OK to Laugh is like a long chat with a close friend over a cup of coffee (or chardonnay). –Evelyn Casey

3 Stars