Now in its fourth edition and vastly expanded, Anniversarius: The Book of Autumn is Brett Rutherford’s 40-poem epic cycle of autumn-themed poems. Although there is plenty of Shelley, Poe, and Bradbury here in the celebration of “autumn’s being,” this cycle encompasses works that are mythic, metaphysical, political, satirical and, of course, supernatural.
Autumn becomes the landscape for Jan Palach’s suicide in Soviet-invaded Czechoslovakia in 1969; for translations of Pushkin and Hugo; and for rhapsodic and moody invocations of fall in Western Pennsylvania (the poet’s birthplace) and haunted New England (his adopted home). Greek myth comes in by way of a hymn to Rhea, the Oak Tree Goddess, an encounter with three oak nymphs, and a dinner party in Hades.
Rutherford walks in the footsteps of Poe in New York City, and sets two other powerful poems in Manhattan: one a panorama of historic Madison Square Park, and a troubled visit in the aftermath of 9/11.
Influenced by Poe, Shelley, Whitman, Jeffers, Hugo, Bradbury, and Greek classics, these poems present a cosmos tinged with autumnal sadness, yet they are brave with the delight in a life fully relished down to the last falling leaf. Although solitude and loss stalk through these pages, there are also poems expressing a defiant, transcendent spirit. Each of the two “Rings” of the work ends with powerful affirmation. The locales of the latest poems include New York, Providence, rural Pennsylvania, the planets Mars and Pluto, and Ming Dynasty China.
This book is meant to be relished slowly, to be read aloud and savored for music as well as meaning. Each poem stands alone as an “anniversary,” yet the cycle as a whole is Romantic in sweep, its structure like that of two successive long symphonies.