Several years ago, I contacted a poet who was known to advise writers about publication possibilities for their work. With considerable hope, I sent her 25 of my poems. When she came to consult with me a week later, she brought a sheet of paper on which were listed, under 3 headings--"too personal," "too political," and "Yes"--the results of decades of my labor. I was astonished to learn that the list marked "too political" contained many of what I considered my best poems.
"Hell," I replied, "almost all of my poems are either political or personal." Even a totally innocuous poem such as "The Eyes of the Children of Solentiname" was destined to mold in the slush pile because I had included a slightly negative reference to Disneyland.
Adrienne Rich defined a patriot as someone who "wrestles for the soul of her country." For decades I have followed Rich's injunction, and several years ago wrote a book entitled Struggling for the Soul of Our County. In that volume I wrote about the American Empire and castigated our political leaders for decades of invasions and occupations south of the Rio Grande, for C.I.A.-orchestrated coups from Guatemala to Chile and, much farther from home, from Indonesia to the Central African Republic, with lives lost, according to one former C.I.A. officer, numbering in the "gross millions." Hence readers will find here poems like "New World Order," angry poems, bitter in tone, as well as a satirical poem such as "Epitaph for Ronald Reagan." I even took a shot, in "Pledge of Allegiance," at Humpty Trumpty. But they will also encounter poems that are all sweetness and light such as the sonnet I composed in 1958 after my first date with Ann Hutt, who became my wife.
As I approach my eighty-ninth birthday, I feel totally blessed to have had a career writing and teaching poetry. With luck I may live to write a few more poems.
"In this wide-ranging book of exquisitely crafted poems, Preston Browning writes, "I long for poets/who speak a mother tongue/meant to connect//..." And that is precisely what he gives us. . . . Carry this book with you; when you need that special poem, you will no doubt find it here." --Patricia Lee Lewis, author of the poetry books, A Kind of Yellow and High Lonesome, leads creative writing workshops at Patchwork Farm
"Preston Browning is a force of nature and a poet of remarkable range. In this volume of poems and translations, he moves effortlessly from poems of love and courtship to political reckoning. I was consistently transfixed." --Steve Almond, author of Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country
"Browning's poems range from sonnet to elegy to nursery rhyme. Through all the changes, he knows exactly what he is doing: striving to create " . . . poetry in a language less precious / than that other tongue / that may be just the thing / for communicating with angels." Sandino's Grave welcomes in all of us the angels of listening, and being the better for it." --Pat Schneider, author: Writing Alone and With Others and How the Light Gets In, and founder, Amherst Writers & Artists
"Sandino's Grave is an all-encompassing triumph of erudition, craft, and political convictions." --Mark Pawlak, author most recently of Reconnaissance
Preston M. Browning, Jr., a retired English professor, has published three books: Flannery O'Connor: The Coincidence of the Holy and the Demonic in O'Connor's Fiction, Affection and Estrangement: A Southern Family Memoir, and the most recent, a collection of ten essays entitled Struggling for the Soul of Our Country. He has been writing poetry for decades, with poems appearing in The Friends Journal, Phase & Cycle, The Pikestaff Forum, The Ecozoic Reader, and other journals. In the late seventies Browning and his family spent an academic year in Macedonia on a Fulbright grant to teach American literature at the university in Skopje. He is the owner and director of Wellspring House: A Retreat for Writers and Artists in Ashfield, Massachusetts.