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REVIEW: Berkshire poet David Giannini's latest collection ponders the equal importance of everything


"The Dawn of Northing Important" 

“The Dawn of Nothing Important” would seem to be an ironic way of titling one’s book, but poet David Giannini is plainly comfortable with ironies, contradictions and mysteries. After all, if nothing is important then isn’t everything of equal importance?

The Berkshire-based poet, who has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for past works, has also been a teacher and, among other things, a beekeeper. Bees, insects and the natural world in general play a key role in “The Dawn of Nothing World,” as does the metaphysical world. Giannini’s collection of poems and prose poems link, expand upon and even contest one another, with the author’s often whimsical perspective preventing matters from getting overheated.

“The Dawn of Nothing Important” is also the title of one of eight sections of the book, one in which the final word or words of each poem are the title of the next. It creates momentum for a journey through day and night, and time and space.

“Rooster breaks day in

one century or another

In a timeless way

said the man”

This is our introduction to the section, one in which the rooster reappears as a guide to the journey.

Giannini’s movement among worlds is grounded in the contemporary world, as in a haunting section on the pandemic. In “Covid Paranoid Insomnia,” “A great threat moves across the land. No one knows exactly when or if it will stop in its tracks, or for how long.” An observation on termites in old logs leads to a reflection on a rotting country, “when we live in what we consume one way or another; live near or far from each other, shaken, as if our flag was ripped in half by strangers.”

The poet’s darker musings are tempered by lighter ones. This is a writer who loves wordplay — “Hey kid, don’t jump to delusions” — he advises, and the sound and rhythm of phrases. A redwing blackbird is a “conductor in a black suit swaying at the podium as the atonal orchestra strikes up.”

This last phrase, from the particularly powerful poem, “To Those Who Kept The Faith,” is one of many reminders that Giannini knows and cherishes rural living. There is much here for Berkshire readers to enjoy. The observation that “there are people, tight in cities, who believe many country things unexist except as inklings in old books,” will surely resonate among many. Appropriately, Melville is visited in his writing room at Arrowhead. Charged with monitoring the houses of neighbors who have gone south for the winter, the author reflects on the “intimate inanimate” of these darkened homes, noting the “wooden giraffes with curious glances I pass.”

Giannini reflects on poetry itself, wondering if the poet is master of or servant dog to the poetry. We’ll give him the last word on that: “I am growing teeth. I am the dog of poetry. But now who or what holds the leash? I am going to chew on that for a while.”

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