Michael Cantor poetry





Deborah Warren...continued

“Michael Cantor uses words to paint and sculpt the world. .. Life in the Second Circle is a sensory kaleidoscope where the poems are more like movies. In Jump-Cut, the speaker says that film absorbs a life; you could say the same of Cantor’s poetry. And, although another poem refers to life being life, the bitch it wants to be, life for this poet is irresistibly wonderful....

“There are Cantor’s women, for instance (to mention only one category), often with attributes not necessarily attractive: a faint incipient mustache; loose and mottled flesh. There’s the wife, short and squarely built, who chewed her lip—the detail that brings her to life. My favorite, though, is the woman who has a red mouth bursting with kisses....

“Cantor’s cinematic vividness makes him a supreme master of Zeitgeist, who captures time and place in jewels of verse-drama: A poem about the movie Breathless nails the grainy black and white of Paris in the Sixties. The largely-forgotten title character in The Man Who Caught the Pass becomes a Rosencranz, a Guildenstern, whose role was simply to be there. The terzanelle Watching Reruns provides another slice of life: The weary talk, the crime scene tape, the crowd. About Genghis Khan, the title says it all: Retired, and Living in Seclusion Near Las Vegas, Khan Reflects...

“Cantor wears his intellect lightly. He is not a Poet who takes himself Seriously; he’s having too much fun. And he wears his tastes and opinions lightly, too. But his poetry is nonetheless serious business. Cantor—hip and retro-cool—flashes the world before us in Fifties Technicolor, neon, stereo, Imax, Sensurround. But he’s not only a philosopher, he’s also an urban/urbane romantic. “

From the Foreword by Deborah Warren


Catherine Tufariello...continued

"I’ve been admiring Michael Cantor’s poems in journals for a decade or more, looking forward to this book, and it’s worth the wait.  Like Muhammad Ali, one of the “Box Men” he celebrates in a virtuosic crown of sonnets, Cantor is a master of floating like a butterfly in a small, roped-off space.  In his hands the most formidably difficult forms--villanelles, triolets, Petrarchan sonnets, sestinas, ballades, and equally rigorous stanzas of his own invention--become spurs to imaginative freedom.  Whether in fixed forms or the free verse at which he also excels, Cantor’s eye is drawn to the incongruous and unpredictable, to ways that our experience of the world defies easy abstractions and assumptions.  Again and again, like the Hasidic women “holding hands and laughing, floating” on rollerblades across Miami Beach, “what was inside is now outside the box” in these poems, free to see and be seen clearly.  

"Like Ali, Cantor also knows how to inflict a sting.  In his case the bee-sting is wit, as when, in “The Zealot Tries on a Burka,” he satirizes ideologues for whom reality is defined as what fits their constricted vision.  With their verve and humor, these capacious poems do just the opposite, moving nimbly from Brighton Beach to a tea house in Tokyo, a shell-pocked Antwerp to Navajo country, a Gloucester pub to a Venetian piazza, and accommodating along the way a retired Genghis Khan, an aubade to an eggplant, Andrew Wyeth’s Christina (translated from Maine to Mexico), a basketball-dunking rabbi’s son, and that “cockamamy, cracked conquistador” Ponce de Leon, still brooding in spirit over the kitsch of Key West.   Like the vividly drawn characters who populate Life in the Second Circle, we are constantly reminded that one never knows where life will go, or how or when or where.  But it’s a pleasure to be along for the ride."

Catherine Tufariello

Alfred Nicol...continued

"To be called "a poet's poet" passes for a compliment among poets. Michael Cantor is another, rarer kind of poet—let's say "a novelist's poet." A glance through his titles will show what I mean: "The Man Who Caught the Pass;" "Encounter at the Hotel Moskva…" In Cantor's poems samurai actors mingle at a buffet lunch; the sturdy bicycle girls of Antwerp ride by with unshaven legs. Even when merely trying to evoke a sense of place, as in "Navajo Country," Cantor tucks a story into a line or two: "Some teenage girls with angry skin/ are talking family with a cop." This poet knows things that writers of fiction know about writing, and that other poets ignore at their peril. He reminds us that memory is imagination, and that the pronoun "I" who does the narrating is an imagined character, too."

Alfred Nicol


Jule Kane...continued

"Against a backdrop of the world’s great cities and their material and cultural treasures, Michael Cantor’s world-weary men and women compete for the objects of their desires in games of business, war, sports, seduction, and deception. Dante’s second circle of hell was reserved for sins of lust, but Cantor’s narrator does not judge his infernal cast of characters; rather, he causes us to identify with their essential human neediness. What’s more, he does so through a cinematic gift for storytelling and a mastery of poetic form. "

Julie Kane