Review by Anne Brudevold(email)

by Nathan Graziano


P.O. Box 911
Buffalo, NY 14207
ISBN -13:978-0-9769857-9-2

Nathan Graziano's slim book is simple on the surface. The poems are accessible, honest, and wide-ranging. It is divided into two Parts: The Student Body and The Faculty. It could be read in or out of school; even as an assignment, the reading is compelling. Everyone will recognize him or herself in one or more of the poems. The poems bring us back, as if we were ghosts, walking the hallways of our own high school. Often the tone is cynical, and we ask ourselves, does Graziano really like teaching at all?
Consider Monday Morning with Lazarus:

...Hordes of nickel-eyed students
drag heavy feet in a slow parade
a procession of the condemned
moving toward the school's entrance
the open mouth of the sepulcher...

Consider Wrestling with Wallace Stevens. Mr. G. the teacher wrestles with "The Explorer of the Ice Cream."

Meanwhile my students read Kafka
and hold the German following word
left to right with limp eyes
more interested in American Idol
than a good existential crisis
I've yet to pin The emperor of Ice Cream
And they're morphing into apathetic roaches.

Graziano seems to have two levels of existence as a teacher. He writes in the preface to The Student Body: "In your more serious moods, you stand outside your classroom in your white shirt and to see yourself. Other times, you can see your own face in through the stream, wearing that dizzy glaze that has always belonged to you." The poems are written in an intermingling of these two voices. They are spare, spare no punches, and mostly concentrate on the problems of public education and the hopelessness of the students and many faculty members. The book takes a hard look at the educational system. It pictures teaches who care, teaches who burn out, students sleeping in class, a student who says, "I hate this class."
One especially moving poem, D is for DIPLOMA, ends, "The Teen Mother sighed as tears glazed / her own marble eyes like dew on a crystal ball, / Pleading like she was freezing and I held fire." The poems, though cynical, are written with compassion for the experience of each person, as if the poet, as a teacher, has the ability to separate his ego from the subjects he talks about. He observes them without injecting his own personality. It's my guess that this ability to not take things personally, to separate his ego from students and faculty, is the secret of Graziano's longevity as a teacher and success as a teacher. He gleans poetry from moments that might depress, anger, or pass by a less inspired coworker.
For example, in one poem, a student starts dancing in the middle of study hall. "What the hell are you doing?" the teacher asks. "I'm dancing, Mr.G," she says. He says, "I watch her helpless from my desk, until the bass starts to beat in my head too." Written in colloquial, low key language, Teaching Metaphors makes no barriers between the adult and the young person we all once were. Government officials: listen up. Perceptive, approachable book.



Anne Brudevold has taught writing at UMASS Amherst, Westfield State College, Holyoke Community College, and creative writing at SUNY Stonybrook. She was co-poetry editor of the internationally distributed journal Peregrine. Her poetry and fiction have been accepted in Poets On:, Onthebus, Windhorse, Small Pond, Pleaides, Black Bough, Mississippi Review, Bagelbards Anthology #2, Ibbetson Street, Wilderness House Literary Review, and others. Wilderness House Literary Review is publishing a serial version of her novel Hunter Moon, and will publish it full length when the serialization is finished. She was runner up for Best Short Story in The Optimist, a newspaper of Western MA. She publishes The Eden River Press, which has done a chapbook, and has an anthology and several chapbooks in the works.




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