All six HOMELESS REVIEWS TO DATE:
(1) Gerard Sarnat's epic poems burst across the page with the glee usually
reserved for shooting stars. This is a playful balls-out poet unafraid to
temper bold statements with enough humor and compassion to make
us nostalgic for his ecstatic profound view of life. He sings to us through
the voice of a universal poet. Sarnat's written one hell of an exciting book!
-Suzanne Burns, Misfits and Other Heroes among other poetry collections
(2) Gerry Sarnat's tough, witty, language-obsessed poems are both a post-holocaust
reconstruction of his family's history and a progression towards
a declaration of his own intention. In his seventh decade, after a medical
career that included doctoring the homeless, the poet declares: “I must give
birth.” I admire the skill of the poetry-often as precise as a diagnosis-as
well as his labor-like decision. The poems may be unsentimental but they
are also, importantly, emotional.
-Phyllis Koestenbaum, Stanford, Doris Day and Kitschy Melodies among other poetry collections
(3) The epic poem HOMELESS CHRONICLES from Abraham to Burning
Man . . . is an interesting foray into language. I can hear my tongue trying
to form the words he uses like a rattler throatily teasing me from the
first page of the book. From the Judean Desert of his heritage to Burning
Man's pagan artsy Black Rock Desert, this rattler charms you, scares you
and tells you before it is coming, warning the imminent charge long
before you get to the bloom of the poem's end and see it for yourself. . . .
The thrust of the book is this: Who do we tend to and why must we? . . . This
book is a woven traffic of patterns he follows, synchronizing and priming
through the forest of mankind, exposing us for the monkeys we are, and
sometimes praising us along the battering route he has taken for being
humane and human after all.
-Jane Crown, publishing editor of Heavy Bear, host of Jane Crown's Poetry Radio
(4) HOMELESS CHRONICLES from Abraham to Burning Man is a viscous kind
of cerebral punk. Sarnat, new to poetry at the age of sixty-four, is no Beatle,
not even a Rolling Stone. Akin more to a prolific Sid Vicious, the highly
educated Sarnat has emerged from the medical world and “delivering care
to the disenfranchised” with poems that span time and circumstance.
At his best Sarnat delivers a high-octane mix of history and imagery. In
“Whimperbang: Yad Vashem Revisited,” Sarnat writes about touring Israel's
official memorial to victims of the Holocaust. Opening with “Heine was
right:/ when books burn, humans are destined to be next,” Sarnat's poem
unfolds a series of visceral images. There are few if any songs of innocence
between these pages, though lines like “I dreamt and redreamt a binary
dream/ rooted in revenge and prayer for those up the smokestacks,” spin
my head a bit and keep me tuned in to the final transition where Sarnat
emerges into the present day with social commentary coming from his
fellow tour companions: “The yeshiva bocker in side curls, skull cap,
and black coat/ whose steps we've trailed these aching hours, / mutters
something under his breath, what I take to mean, / “Enough. Let me out of
From shape poems to poems that hint at spoken word to an epithalamium
which takes place at Burning Man, there is nowhere Sarnat is not willing to
go, and nothing he isn't willing to risk. And while this book is a bit X-rated,
there are some nice easy PG poems in here as well, including a favorite
called “Edward Hopper Foster Care,” about the revival of both plant and
patient. By my reckoning of Sarnat's poetry, if this powerhouse doesn't
knock you off your rocker, I'm not sure what ever would.
-Cameron Scott, Sugar Mule
(5) Gerard Sarnat comes lately to poetry but arrives with deep roots. We're
immediately immersed in Gerry's ingenious transformation into Chassid
Gesundheit Sarnatzky and his universal immigrant story.
Sarnat's real journeys include a surprise encounter absolutely alone with the
Dalai Lama in the Dharamsala airport transit room; range from New Mexico
commune to namesake Sarnath to Myanmar, Machu Picchu and Burning
Man with his kids; to bridging Eurasian sides of the Bosporus, gaps with
homeless patients, and a husband and wife's weak smiles.
Gerry's crackling brilliant debut collection is richly layered, engaging and
really alive, irreverent and amusing, very strong, immensely enjoyable.
Whether bringing pizza lunch to his 94 and 97 year-old parents, holding
a daughter's newborn, or honoring sacred plants; one senses ground well
traveled-though he often takes the other fork. I'd like to know this man!
-Joan Logghe, University of New Mexico-Los Alamos Rice among other poetry collections
(6) HOMELESS CHRONICLES from Abraham to Burning Man takes us on
a journey from the sensual, innocent stages of growing up to an end
reflection on whether “these jottings (will) see the light of day” . . .
Gerard Sarnat talks about his experience with the homeless as he
wanders “the asphalt with a toolbox of hope.” He is at his best when
concrete and earthy. He describes Big Bad Bill, a dumpster diver
with “weeping ankles wrapped in weeping rags” as he searches for
“fungoid muffins, rancid tuna” from the trash. In “Irregular People:
M-W-F,” written in short three line stanzas, we encounter graphically
who the poet sees on his rounds at a community clinic-“ a bizarro ex-con,”
Mona Lisa who “sashays in/mustache trimmed, cig hung/ Them
shemale hormones sure work great!” and “Billie Holiday's cocoa
butter double/ demure in torn tight jeans and pink plastic sandals /
doesn't even know I exist.”
Who are the homeless in this collection? They are the people of the
street obviously but also the homeless are the WW11 refugees of his
roots, the kids like himself who grew up coping with a multicultural
world of the American melting pot. In the poem, “My Odyssey, My
Iliad” we see the author far from home trying to return from the
wars and the constant battles of his professional life as a modern day
Odysseus. Here he becomes most lyrical and the cadence carries the
narrative of the poem along with it. “Polishing off today's lineup of
dopers and loners/ users and losers, screamers, moaners, schemers/
smashed shoulders and dreams.”
The Homeless Chronicles is an interesting, often lyrical response to the
historical and personal passage of time, the man and the writer from
Abraham to Burning Man.
-David Fraser, editor Ascent Aspirations