Poet Stephen B. Wiley's first book of poetry, Hero Island, reflects tender snapshots and reminiscent overviews of various stages of his life as a youngster working on a farm in New Jersey, summer vacations spent with his family in Northern Vermont, and his positive stance on life.
His elegant command of language magically explores and brings to life such varied topics as the shovel we are reluctant to part with, city living, opening up of the summer cottage, shucking corn, Albert Einstein and world federation, and the more weighty experience as the death of a loved one. All are composed with a great deal of introspection and with a sincere palette of words that are easily accessible to even the inexperienced poetry reader.
Particularly touching and one that struck home is "Going," where Wiley portrays the passing away of his ninety-four year old father-something I personally just recently experienced with the passing away of my father-in-law. The ending of the poem's unadorned spoken language poignantly describes his inner feelings:
"I knew father wouldn't die
I bent over his bed though
and we embraced with a kiss
as he was going."
Above all, Wiley's strength lies in that his poems are characterized by a sense of wonder and nostalgia with which he imbues his reflections, that is neither sad nor frustrated, as is often the case with so many poets. Moreover, descriptions are effortless and fresh, reverberating with vitality, as exemplified in the first two stanzas of his poem To My Hands:
"Yes, yes I do admire your solo work
how you throw a ball
write your name
tip you hat
And I'm proud that things are named for you
giving a helping hand
handing down your outgrown clothes
even handing over something you shouldn't have"
Quite noteworthy is Wiley's remarkable skill with language, perhaps attributable to his legal training. When I interviewed him and asked him how had this affected his poetry writing, his succinct reply was "words are the subject matter of law ? spoken words and written words ? and precision of language is most important. Poetry draws on the same strengths." That just about sums up the poetic style of Stephen B. Wiley.
Although, I must admit that I initially opened Wiley's book of poems with some trepidation, my only grumble, when reaching the last poem, was that I did not have enough of it. It is my hope that Hero Island only marks the inauguration of a long and creative career.
Norm is also a travel writer and together with his artist wife, Lily, they meld words with art focusing on romantic and wedding destinations.