What does Arnie Reisman know about Clara Bow?

Arnie Reisman recently published his first book of poetry and photograpy, titled “Clara Bow Died for Our Sins.” – Photo by Michael Cummo

Not resting on his laurels, Martha’s Vineyard Poet Laureate Arnie Reisman recently published his first book of poetry and photographs, “Clara Bow Died for Our Sins,” just in time for stocking up on summer reading. Mr. Reisman was crowned poet laureate in 2014, and holds his title through 2016. In case you missed his comedy “Not Constantinople last month at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, never heard him along with his wife Paula Lyons on NPR’s “Says You! or missed him at the Moth event at the Tabernacle last summer, you may not hear his voice in your head when reading his brilliant wordsmithing, but it’s a worthy read nonetheless. I have not only had the opportunity to witness him in all his aforementioned forms, but have also had the pleasure of being tickled, tantalized, and from time to time tormented by Arnie’s poetry at our bimonthly gatherings of the Cleaveland House Poets since he joined us in 2014. Arnie has a distinctive voice, both as a reader and a writer.

The book is an all-Island affair, from book designers Peggy and Steve Zablotny of Z Studio, with a foreword by Chilmark Writing Workshop wiz and Island columnist Nancy Slonim Aronie, to book publisher, poet and writer Brooks Robards of Summerset Press. The book of poetry and photography also pays homage to Arnie’s daily walks with his beloved yellow lab, Floyd, who passed away in 2013. Arnie explains in his “About the Art” foreword that after becoming a wash-ashore in 2011 with his wife and dog, he began taking detail shots of the hulls of boats he passed on his daily dog walks. What else is an iPhone for?

I am not sure I can improve on the flap-copy quotes by Island poets Donald Nitchie and Fan Ogilvie: “History repeats itself, and origin myths need updating. Reisman’s wordplay shines a light on our delusions, wishing us luck, while shrugging at our obstinacy,” said Mr. Nitchie. Fan Ogilvie raved, “He has eagerness of expression like someone shot from a canon, blending humor and wisdom in each poem.” OK, I agree, and not just with them but with comedian Lewis Black, who is quoted on the back cover: “If you’ve been afraid of poetry before, you have nothing to fear, enter here. You won’t regret it.”

Don’t ask me which is my favorite poem. What I have always appreciated about Arnie’s work is his ability to weave history, mystery, irony, and humor together, always keeping readers guessing as we read on. Poetry is never to be read in a single sitting; it is for mulling, for the sheer use of language and distinctive wit in assembling so small a package that one cannot help but be uplifted, altered, or teased into the secrets of words, of the author, of the world both familiar and new. Arnie’s world runs the gamut from L.A. to our solar system, from Clara Bow to God, from haiku to “Perverse,” from “Apoplectic” to “Nothing to Fear But Nothing Itself.” By all means get thee to a local bookshop and pick up a copy of Arnie’s first offering of poetry. Come “Full Circle,” check your “Colored Vision,” “Before There Was a Road,” “Nevermind.” Arnie’s words will serve as “Inspiration,” and if you’re lucky you’ll get “A Mobius Striptease.”


Among rocks rounding

themselves in the sun

with air and age

lying there in wait

without weight

sliding silently

without witness

into memory

without care

a poster for yesterday

a young child stands

toes crinkling sands

looking down at his hands

that now belong to a man

in the autumn haze of life

and yet the summer breezes

never stop brewing

and the rocks never stop