The Instrument of Others. Leonard J. Cirino.
Lummox Press - PO Box 5301 San Pedro, CA 90733
120 pages; 6 X 9;
Trade Paper; ISBN 978-1-929878-33-8; Retail Price $15.
Leonard J. Cirino (1943 - 2012 (passed away on March 10, 2012))
was the author of nineteen chapbooks and seventeen full-length
collections of poetry since 1987 from numerous small presses. He
lived in Springfield, Oregon, where he retired and worked
full-time as a poet. His full-length collection, Chinese
Masters, is from March Street Press, 2009. His 100 page
collection, Omphalos: Poems 2007 was published in 2010
from Pygmy Forest Press. A 64 page selection, Tenebrion:
Poems 2008 is from Cedar Hill Publications, in 2010. His 60
page collection, Triple Header is due from Cervena Barva
Press, E. Somerville, MA in 2012. His collection, Homeland,
Exile, Longing & Freedom was published by AA Press in 2011.
He can no longer be reached at
About the book:
In the late 80’s some friends of mine traveled to Europe and
left me with several anthology translations from the southern
and eastern Europeans and my interest in poetry was restored. I
had become very despondent with the quality of US poets since
the deaths of Lowell, Berryman, Sexton, Theodore Roethke, and
James Wright. Very few US poets spoke to me then and they still
do not now. I think this is when I began to find my own voice
mixed among the voices of many poets I could relate to – men and
women who had been through either the Spanish Civil War or World
War 2 – either under Nazi or Communist occupation.
I still devote most of my reading, except for magazines, to
poets in translation. I’d say that 75-80% of the poetry I read
is in translation because I find people from around the world
have far more to say than the poets in the US who are either
self-described “outlaws” or belong to the privileged or academic
classes and I don’t relate to either of them.
As one of my poems says, “He was hard at work being unemployed,”
and only in the last five years of working did I live above the
poverty level. I always had food and shelter and enough street
smarts to trade for used books and I didn’t want for much more
than that. As far as where my writing is going I just keep on
keeping on. I have received no awards or grants, won no
contests, yet I am among the most devoted, well read, and
hardest working poets in the US or anywhere. I don’t have many
illusions about success—especially in today’s literary market—so
I will go on in my suburban hermit mode and do the real work.
Most likely I will keep on reading translations from all over
the world and use the poets I read to “inspire” my own work. As
this title says, I have become “The Instrument of Others.”
~Leonard J. Cirino
Cirino, who trust in metaphor as a path to poetic and perhaps
spiritual enlightenment, who follow European symbolist models in
the attempt to de-familiarize the ordinary and expose its full
dimensions, and who approach the world with a generosity of
perception rather than an intellectual full-court press are not
currently in fashion. The publishing world is only occasionally
friendly to them."
~William Doreski (from the preface)
When I think of
the poetry of Leonard Cirino, I think of Robert Frost and
Robinson Jeffers. When I think of the poetry of Leonard Cirino,
I think of dignity and integrity. He knows madness up close, and
he knows discipline and seclusion, as well as love and
tenderness. He is devoid of self-pity, looks death square in the
eye, and writes of nature, the cosmos and his dog with equal
He is a classical poet in a world gone mad with idiom.
A Sacred Madness
want to listen but the wind, the sea,
howled the world’s blood-stained torments.
I turned my thoughts inside my ears
and there a scarlet madness screamed.
Behind the sky, the moon succumbed
to dawn, the twilight gleamed in pain.
My head bowed to darkness,
life was wretched, struggle dreary.
Years later I lay down in woods
and bloomed among the ferns.
It was clear
at first, later my brain shattered.
After a few years, suddenly I’m old. Back then,
when the wind called I would answer, the birds
tormented me and the ocean’s cries caused aches
in all my tissues. Now, I spy on nature’s aspects;
the alders blow away in peaceful thoughts,
rivers lament the passing of loved ones
I remain grateful to. Man of few talents,
with even less to do, I guard my leisure jealously.
The times are fast, and I am even slower
than past centuries when people carried on
at a graceful pace. Methodical, I walk my dog
in the woods, go out to the hills and streams
fearing the abyss will crush me for having too much.
Born a small
stream, bare trickle,
I grew into a storming river
but learned my place
when I entered the great sea.
The Way Out
after Du Fu
The way out
of these mountains forgotten,
checkered moonlight covers the forest floor.
I walk with old ghosts at my side,
my feet make little skitters in the duff.
I don’t know which path to take. A glow leads
us to a logging road. Dog at my knees,
we’re down to meadows and streams. The clearings
temper my fear. Not too far ahead,
my brother’s barn where we will find refuge.
Ten thousand sad atoms twist in the wind.
lasts an hour or two
in the grand scheme of things.
For a while we hear the larks,
the blows come later.
What happens when birds sing
and then death stabs hard?
One late summer night a voice
reaches down to life’s remains,
things calm, the windows close
and open to a different scheme.