Centre and Circumference: a collection of poems
by Howard F. Stein
This book is a collection of poems that are authored by Howard F. Stein. He puts the lens to life from three different positions: Love and Life, Time and Memories, Work and Society. Sandra Indig’s paintings supplement and amplify the poems tonality, texture, and meaning. The incisive and comprehensive foreword is authored by Inna Rozentsvit.
Howard is an interdisciplinarian and psychoanalytic/ anthropological/ humanistic poet and writer. The title, “Centre and Circumference,” comes from Percy Shelley’s 1821 essay, A Defense of Poetry, where he writes that “poetry is at once the centre and circumference of knowledge; it is that which comprehends all science, and that to which all science must be referred.”
Shelley’s metaphor is how Howard Stein has come to imagine poetry – in fact all the arts. Poetry enlarges the circumference of the imagination by replenishing it with thoughts of ever new delight, which have the power of attracting and assimilating to their own nature all other thoughts … The author is certain that this collection enlarges the compass of his reader’s imagination, of his/her world, and of his/her engagement with it. The author has a passionate wish that dwells in the invisible bond between poet and reader.
Yearning, desire, duty permeate every word of this collection. Intense humble identifi cation with all earthly life drives Stein’s expression. I was particularly drawn to poems of the middle section, Time & Memory: in a letter poem addressed to Uncle Hymen, after whom he was named, Stein asks “If I am you, what am I called upon/ to do to end the grief that has been/my companion all these years?
— Dolores Brandon, memoirist, poet.
Howard Stein’s poems are deeply moving, with an evocative common theme and a genuine beauty. Their timeless message comes through with power and grace. To read them is to join Howard in his personal encounter with what it means to be human.
— David Levine, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at the University of Denver and the author most recently of Creativity, Greed, and Fine Art: Making Contact with the Self, and Dark Fantasies: Regressive Movements and the Search for Meaning in Politics.
Howard Stein reminds us of the complementarity that resides in self, life experience, and the world around us. The complement to spoken words is listening; to written words is reading; to one’s hug, that of the other; and to my gaze upon you, your life-affirming gaze in return. The Centre must have its Circumference. Our lives are complemented by these poems.
— Seth Allcorn, Ph.D., retired academic health science center and university executive, author, and consultant, who continues to pursue his now life-long interest of trying to understand human behavior in organizations.
Love of the other, solace in nature, the glory of the mesa, and musings about Ghost Ranch. Every image profoundly inspiring, but hope and nuance, glorious vistas and speaking rocks turn to corporate greed, the politics of hate, and executive malfeasance. From open spaces to trapped human beings. This is Howard Stein’s very best poetry book.
— Peter Petschauer, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC. Author of mos
I blush to admit falling a little bit in love with Howard Stein right after reading his second poem “Embraces.” This author understands hugs in the most all encompassing and romantic manner. I found myself sighing with delight at discovering this poem. I was clearly moved by his: “Soon I could not tell where your hug ended and mine began.”
This wonderful book of poetry is divided into three parts: “Love and Life,” “Time and Memories,” and “Work and Society.” “Time and Memories” recalls visits to Ghost Ranch, NM, to mesas and valleys and mountains, to winter’s triumph over autumn. As in the poem “Imperceptibly”: “I do not know what I wish more- For the leaves to linger or to fall, how much of the night I want to see, Autumn does not ask my preference…” Stein’s intimate relationship with all that exists, whether inanimate or real is eye opening to those of us that may not be as vividly aware of the world around us.
“Work and Society” covers so many aspects of human relationships from refugees and haters, from bosses and their employees, even from councils of foxes overseeing ever diminishing coops of chicken. There might not be enough time in my life or his to ask about all he visualizes and to beg to know where his enormously aware and creative mind gets its unparalleled inspiration. Highly recommended to hold near you at all times.
— R. M. Karp
With this latest collection of poems, the prolific poet scientist Howard F. Stein credits inspiration from an essay by Percy Bysshe Shelley in which Shelley argues “that poetry is at once the center and circumference of knowledge”. For Stein Shelley’s argument resonates with another of his heros, Albert Einstein, who he tells us insisted “that imagination is more important than knowledge”.
Stein fully aligns himself with these thoughts bringing together poems that speak to and of a wide range of human experience. He is as likely to depict the moment when “the CEO entered and announced/that the company had a financial crisis/and had to downsize five thousand/ employees as he is “to stand in the grassy lowland, /my gaze fixed upon/the face of a vast cliff before me”— at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico where he goes annually to retreat with fellow poets and write.
With characteristic compassion and extensive personal experience in the field of medical anthropology Stein articulates a deep love for people of every walk of life: “Your gaze outshines/ a thousand stars/of first magnitude—/and yes, without you/ the sun does not shine.
Add to this eclectic mix of poems wonderful black and white reproductions of paintings by Sandra Indig (herself an exceptional poet, psychoanalyst, artist) and you have a book that nourishes and uplifts. A great gift purchase.
Center and Circumference is a beautiful collection of poetry, divided into thematic segments, that create the perfect image of life, which has a core, and also all those things which surround and enclose that core. There are love poems to all sorts of beloveds that encompass great yearning, searching, a sense of near but missed connection; and then at times a glorious rejoicing in the other. One of the more optimistic poems Filament manages to find a new image for the age-old adage that the world is held together by love. In the moment of reading that poem, you believe it!
I most loved the Time and Memory section. And of those poems, perhaps because I have identical sets of keys, I loved that poem the best, which is about all the lost keys and the lost doors they open, if only our failing memories could retrieve into which keyholes they belong: “The keys themselves/are now forever locked.” So true, and yet we cherish them for the doors we know they could open, if only we could remember where they are. I also enjoyed the odd glints of humor. And although Stein is not a “Jewish poet,” his Jewish soul and spirituality peek through so many of these poems in ways I particularly relish and cherish. This section also highlights Stein’s delicate intimacy with the natural world (“I am part of this…/and this is part of me”), and the solace its mysterious majesty brings, while at the same time putting mere humanity in perspective.
Another rich section is Work and Society. It is in these poems that Stein’s irrefutable sense of social justice shines forth most strongly. Refugees, immigrants, the forgotten, and overlooked, the Othered – the words of these poems welcome them home even when our government does not (“foxes will be foxes” one poem comments – how prescient!). The work rails against gun violence, corporate greed (including one memorable image of the chief executive as a devouring mouth!) and downsizing, and the depredation of the environment. I was deeply moved by these writings, especially In the Cross Hairs, which captures what now seems an almost unimaginable vision of dipping from the same pot, lowering our shields, and reconciling with one another. May it one day be so!
The association to music throughout the collection is lovely, both occasionally in the language of the poems, and in the visual suggestions that remind us poetry is a kind of music. The illustrations generally are gorgeous, what a wonderful addition to the text.
There is great richness, depth, and humanism in this work. Dip in, enjoy, and ponder!
— Johanna Shapiro
The range and tightness of Howard Stein’s poetry is enduring and captivating. We are with him in Oklahoma looking out over prairies and with his creative mind exploring difficult contemporary issues. He is serious, humorous, and to the point. He is a known scholar of human nature and his poetry reflects the depth of his analyses; few poets today reflect as fully or profoundly. Here is one short example of his extraordinary skill; it is from Stein’s most recent Centre and Circumference (2018) (p. 100).
“Come! Let us sit at the same table
and dip our ladle from the same pot.
The vineyards are plentiful;
no one need thirst here.
Let us lower our shields
and put to our lips
a draught of reconciliation.”
— Peter W. Petschauer