The Travelers Calendar


In this stunning new collection-his first in five years-acclaimed poet Daniel Mark Epstein, whom Donald Hall praised for "a vision as tortured and powerful as early Robert Lowell," returns at the top of his form with new and challenging visions.

Epstein's finely meshed net gathers it all in: Ronald Reagan ("On the Official Biography of Ronald Reagan"), Houdini ("Magic for Houdini"), a son's first smile ("The Code"), and the execution of Timothy McVeigh ("The Times: June 7, ...

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In this stunning new collection-his first in five years-acclaimed poet Daniel Mark Epstein, whom Donald Hall praised for "a vision as tortured and powerful as early Robert Lowell," returns at the top of his form with new and challenging visions.

Epstein's finely meshed net gathers it all in: Ronald Reagan ("On the Official Biography of Ronald Reagan"), Houdini ("Magic for Houdini"), a son's first smile ("The Code"), and the execution of Timothy McVeigh ("The Times: June 7, 2001"). Once again this master of language and vivid imagery explores the nature of time's passing and the triumphant power of the natural world-bringing into the fray the poets and history-makers of the past and present centuries.

Epstein is that rare poet blessed with the capacity to register and record-as he does in "The Solar Eclipse in the Luxembourg Gardens," — ". . . the simultaneity/Of city, sun, moon and the human eye."

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Editorial Reviews

Charles Tomlinson
Epstein, like the protagonist of his poem, "The Lion Tamer at 2:00 am,” is a performer who knows the dangers of performance. Rhyme and half-rhyme, stanza forms and enjambment, celebrate as they make articulate the intricacy that the poems contain.
Edward Hirsch
Daniel Mark Epstein is writing at the height of his powers, and his seventh collection of poems is his best yet. The Traveler’s Calendar is a book of night thoughts, of the poet in the middle of his life peering backward and musing forward, marveling at the mysteries, dramatizing other lives, other histories, and daydreaming about his own, crafting his song with a gift and a passion, as he so forcefully puts it, "or filling/Darkness with music.
Louis Simpson
The Traveler’s Calendar carries forward the tradition of writing in meter and rhyme poetry of the highest order. Daniel Mark Epstein writes with a range of reference that is continually surprising and delightful, and with feeling that strikes one as having found its perfect, unforced expression.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781615548279
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 4/1/2002
  • Pages: 112
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Mark Epstein, poet and essayist, has received many honors, including the Prix de Rome from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications, among them The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The New Republic, and The Paris Review. He is the author of critically acclaimed biographies of Aimee Semple McPherson, Nat "King" Cole, and most recently, Edna St. Vincent.
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Read an Excerpt

The Traveler's Calendar


By Daniel Mark Epstein


Copyright © 2002 Daniel Mark Epstein.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 1-58567-242-4


You rise from dry meadowgrass
With a laborious flutter, more
Wing-action than the shortness of your flight
Would seem to call for

And so it seems obvious
Flying for you is a steep effort
Nature exacts, though not without amends,
Bobolink, reedbird;

The wiry tones of your song
Set forth a waltz in clear whistles
At first, so well-sustained! But then you break
Down the bars, stampede

Your notes into a reckless
Song fantasia piped at lightning speed
No one can follow—not the barn swallow
Who soars with such grace,

Not the bird-watcher stalking
The field, not blind Tom with all his skill
At sound-catching, his passion for filling
Darkness with music.

Ricebird, reedbird, bobolink,
Your song is the strained apology
For all of the weak-winged, condemned to sing
Because we cannot fly.

Equinox at Newport Farms

Winter deceived us. Now the March wind
Heckles the weatherboarding of the barn,
Drives the weathercock out of his mind.
Poor counterfeit! He can't tell North from South
Or night from day nowthey are equal and
The lamb's head is in the lion's mouth.

A heron or a heron's ghost in the mist
Wades the marsh, hieratic, Egyptian,
An elegant, high-stepping egoist
With the rare balance to stand alone
In cross winds, still as a bird of iron:
An emblem of long life, so I've heard.

Yet, pinned to the cupola, that painted bird,
Wind-drunk, sun-blind, man-made,
Will outlast him—and me, too, I'm afraid—
An emblem of human thought awhirl upon
Its axis, fanning the compass for direction
While the world ponders, turning in precession
Of the equinoxes, framing an axial space
Like the veering spindle of a spinning top.

Winter deceived us, making us embrace
The long darkness, the hopeless horoscope.
Now something about this vernal equinox
Piques my Libra nature, my need to balance
Future darkness against the daily light.

Neither old nor young at forty-six,
I study the hunting patience of the herons,
The mad persistence of the weathercocks ...

What days will come to equal the coming night?

The Cataract

Lately the world seems darker,
Especially in the evenings,
And I light more lamps
To see no better than ever
Familiar faces and things:

Wayworn works of Art,
Books known almost by heart.
Is this the cataract, what
The Romans used to call
A portcullis or waterfall

Descending to subtract
From the sum of my seeing?
A fine word for a hateful thing,
Though now the doctors say
They can lift the veil in a day.

Who takes joy in the word
For a blur that steals his light?
The power is its own reward
And a gift of second sight,
This joy to build a tower,

Without fear or self-pity,
Of words for the horror
That attends the end of light,
A castle to stand bright
In the ruins of a city.


On either side the stone steps to our door,
Terrace pots fountain the purplish-blue,
Yellow-throated blossoms of scaevola
Whose split corolla fans the petals out
Flat like a mauve glove. Bees love these
And come all summer long to kiss the hands
Of scaevola, "blue wonder," ripe with pollen.

What's in a name? Some scholar gardener
Seeing the strange blossoms wave to him
Recalled a Latin word for the left hand.
But there is greater darkness in the thought
Of how the word came to a man before the word
Became a flower.

He was Mucius who,
When Lars Porsena laid seige to Rome,
Stole into the enemy camp to cut the throat
Of that Clusian King, blundered and got caught.
Enraged, Porsena made a bonfire to broil
The assassin—unless he told the Roman plot.
Mucius seized the flames with his right hand.
"See how cheap this flesh seems to a man
Whose soul loves honor?" He held up the hand,
A torch that so stunned Porsena, he set him free.
"Since you respect courage," said Mucius,
"I'll tell you in gratitude what I hid in pain.
There is no Roman plot but what you've seen:
In Rome there are three hundred men like me."
He walked away, the left-handed man, famous
Ever after as Scaevola. Porsena sued for peace.

"Eat honey, my son," says Solomon,
And everybody knows the sage means wisdom.
I want none made of clover or apple blossom.
Let's hunt for the hive where the bees have gone
To make our soul's food from the strong pollen
Gathered from the dark hands of scaevola.

Excerpted from The Traveler's Calendar by Daniel Mark Epstein. Copyright © 2002 by Daniel Mark Epstein. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Bobolink 11
Equinox at Newport Farms 12
The Cataract 12
Scaevola 14
The Lion Tamer at 2:00 A.M. 17
The Illustrious Critic 18
On the Official Biography of Ronald Reagan 19
The Genie 23
The Glories 25
The Lightning and the Key 27
Magic for Houdini 33
Collection 35
The Traveler's Calendar 39
Caesarean 42
The Code 43
Benjamin, Son of the Right Hand 44
The Solar Eclipse in the Luxembourg Gardens 45
Une Allee Du Luxembourg 50
Heaven's Neighbors 51
Baudelaire's Swan 52
The Royal Hotel in Pisa 53
The Times: June 7, 2001 54
The Belled Buzzard of Roxbury Mills 56
Champion's Light 57
Chorus from "The Bacchae" 58
Gifts 60
The Circle Dance 61
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