Sunrise, Sunset by Ed Galing. Peerless Press, 2010. Contact Ed Galing, 3435 Mill Road, Hatboro, PA 19040. $5.00.
Reviewed by Lou Roach
Ed Galing is no novice when it comes to writing poetry. His work has been printed in small-press magazines, and some not-so-small publications for a number of years. He has been a Pushcart nominee at least twice. Many of his chapbooks are archived at the State University of New York in Buffalo. Now in his 90s, he may well be the most senior poet in the country whose work is still being published
regularly by poetry journals. Galing’s poems have appeared in Rattle, Poesy, Ibbetson Street, 5 AM, Barbaric Yawp, Main Street Rag, Chiron Review, Mobius, Plainsong, Fight These Bastards, The Pegasus Review, Free Verse, Margie, Pearl, Nerve Cowboy, Verse Wisconsin and others
His newest chap, Sunrise, Sunset, gives the reader only a taste of his unpretentious and plain-spoken poems. I was disappointed to find it contains a mere 17 pages of his words, but I enjoyed every one of them. Galing writes from his gut. He writes of what he knows—of New York’s lower East side, of being the child of immigrant parents and a father of sons, of finding work wherever he could and of learning to live contentedly, whatever the circumstances. He speaks proudly of being “. . .happy with everything…I point out with satisfaction that I have come a long way since I was born poor in New York.” He obviously believes he is a fortunate man. In an untitled poem, he notes:
you can’t really get anywhere, sitting
on a stoop on the lower east side,
no matter how much you try.
Galing is not a connoisseur of form. He does not produce sonnets, lyrical verses or pantoums, but his narratives have a charismatic air about them that touches a reader’s heart, then sets the reader’s own thoughts in motion. He offers clear images of his own history, often reflecting details of the events occurring in the world during the years he describes.
In “Land and Honey,” he tells of very hot boyhood summers, when “fire plugs gushed water to cool us off/ as if the river jordan had overflowed just for us.” In the same poem, he explains “we slept at night on the roof/ the stars and the moon like/ the hanging gardens of babylon/ irridense, magical,” ( irridense is his own word).
With some longing, Galing recalls Benny Goodman and his music during “those days when we/ were between wars,” and “times were good/even when they were bad.” In “Waiting for My Son,” he tells the reader of his plan to share an old photograph album with his son as they eat corned beef sandwiches at Jack’s New York deli. He muses:
so much time has gone by since those days
for one, my wife has died, and
I am alone, and the album is about the
only thing that keeps me thinking young.
After his 70-year-old son arrives, the poet changes his mind about the album, saying “that’s a different story a different time.” I sensed he realized his son might not understand how important memories become when a man reaches the age of 91.
Perhaps the most poignant piece in this small booklet is “Farewell to Paradise”:
the day my father
left and didn’t
i was sixteen
. . .
my mother sober
faced. . .told me she had
news for me
and when she told me,
i listened but
felt like dying,
and inside my heart
drummed a death song
and i watched my
mother dying too
The appearance of this recent publication distracted me as I read. Aside from the spare contents, the layout of pages without numbers, with poems not centered or flush-left, but set askew on a number of pages, the finished product somehow disrespectful to the writer, who has been called “The Poet of the Greatest Generation.” At first, I thought the poems were purposely presented at strange angles here and there, but realized that was not the case throughout the chapbook, that the layout may have been done hurriedly and without a lot of thought as to organization.
Ed Galing’s work reveals his reverence for the people he knows, for those he hopes will read with his “Everyman’s” wisdom, for his family and for each day of life. Readers, who value and enjoy his words with respect, may wish this sample of his work might have reflected those same feelings in its design.
As I finished this review, I could almost hear Galing saying “Who cares about looks? My poems are printed so they can be read. Just enjoy!”
And we will.
Lou Roach, former social worker and psychotherapist, lives in Poynette. Her poems have appeared in a number of small press publications, including Main Street Rag, Free Verse and others. She has written two books of poetry, A Different Muse and For Now. She continues to do free-lance writing, although poetry is her favorite thing to do.