The “flower soliloquy” in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” inspired former USF professor of writing and life-long poet Aaron Shurin’s new collection of poems and prose. The book, “Flowers & Sky,” ponders his younger years exploring poetry, flowers and homosexuality. Shurin gave a live reading from “Flowers & Sky” on Feb. 7 at USF, allowing friends, family, students, colleagues and strangers to step into his world of grace and intrigue, carefully strung together word by word.
“Flowers & Sky” is, in Shurin’s own words, “very much a poet’s tale.” Every word has been intentionally chosen, with an unimaginable scope of contemplation behind each one. Shurin exemplifies this with words like, “apricot,” “eucharist,” “spillover” and “jeté.” Because a vast portion of Shurin’s inspiration for this work drew from his adolescent years playing Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, the language of “Flowers & Sky” appears bombastic, but really just evokes the flowers by which he was awoken. An excerpt from the book displays this dynamic:
What is a flower but a momentary eruption of the streaming energy, of the power of generation and the condensation of senses into a fleeting burst of creative impulse, a poem blasting forth in temporal vibrations by which we might fall in love with the world again as though awakening from a dream.
During the reading, Shurin stood with a leg resting on a podium, arms stretched forward to hold the book under the light, glancing down every now and then at the page before him, demonstrating that he knew most of the words. He was physically involved in his reading: eyebrows raised, head nodding as he glanced at everyone in the room in the rhythmic dance of the presentation. His voice vibrated steadily through the microphone despite the variety of his tone as the poems moved – “auditory evocation,” he called it.
“The soundscape is so important to me as I write,” Shurin said. “What you hear is what I feel when I write it.”
After giving two talks that included the content of “Flowers & Sky”, Shurin worked with the publisher Entre Ríos Books to create the collection. When asked whether the pressure in academia to “publish or perish” influenced this book, Shurin described his reasons for writing as mostly a personal need that transcends any outside stressor.
“My first goal is to address the complex urgency of wanting to write something and at the same time actively engaging in the shape, energy and tension of what emerges,” Shurin said. “Then of course, I dare to dream that someone somewhere, as a reader, might also find meaning or delight in the engagement.”
“Flowers & Sky” is Shurin’s 13th book of poetry and prose. His writing has appeared in over 40 anthologies and has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council and the San Francisco Arts Commission. “Flowers & Sky” can be ordered at most bookstores or through its main distributor, Small Press Distribution, at SPDBooks.org.