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FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Like a painter who can paint within lines but chooses not to, Sacred Heart University English professor and New Britain native Jonas Zdanys, Ph.D., explores the world outside traditional boundaries in his latest poetry book, The Kingfisher’s Reign.
Published in January by the Chicago-based Virtual Artists Collective, The Kingfisher’s Reign is made up of 80 prose poems, which are lyrical narratives written in non-rhyming blocks like traditional fiction, rather than broken into lines or stanzas like traditional lyrical poetry.
“Prose poetry tells a story,” said Zdanys, who came to Sacred Heart in August 2009 and for two years also served as associate vice president for academic affairs. “Prose poems focus on an immediate moment – in many instances an epiphanic moment – created through images, metaphors and details that blend the lyrical and the narrative and enable the reader to experience that moment too.”
This is Zdanys’ 40th published book and 17th volume of original poetry, which he has published in English and in Lithuanian. A bilingual scholar as well known for his translations of Lithuanian poetry and prose as for his own poems, Zdanys said The Kingfisher’s Reign explores themes like impermanence, the passage of time, the cycle of the seasons, redemption, and “a sensibility of moving into the fullness of age.”
“Each of the book’s four sections represents a season,” explained Zdanys, who lives in Wallingford. “The first section, titled ‘Icarus Rising,’ shows the possibilities that come with spring, and the last, ‘The Shadows of Crows in Midwinter,’ describes the resurrection that occurs at winter’s end. The book comes full circle, with linked stories and thematic repetitions, and acknowledges that what we are and what we can know lie deep within and also far outside the limits of storytelling and language. The ability to use poetic language to explore what it means to be human is what interests me, as is the ability to explore the world outside of what can be understood or analyzed rationally. That is what poetic metaphor allows.”
Virtual Artists Collective describes The Kingfisher’s Reign as “a carefully observed and meticulously presented world, a place in which the human spirit, in the face of defeat and loss and triumph and change, in the passing of the years, remains a constant, resilient and powerful presence.”
Zdanys, however, is quick to deflect praise, especially for the volume of his work. “All human beings have the potential to be artists. Some of us follow that path more directly and immediately. And I guess, too, that if you live long enough, you can accomplish a lot of different things,” he said with a laugh.
Honored recently by the National Library of Lithuania with an exhibit about his life and work, Zdanys will read from and sign The Kingfisher’s Reign at several upcoming events. Selected to participate in the 2012 Poet’s Voice series – an annual event that brings notable poets to Fairfield County libraries – Zdanys will read at the Darien Library, 1441 Post Road, Darien, at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 22. On April 7, he will be one of three Virtual Artists Collective poets to read at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and in the fall will read at the Poetry Institute in New Haven.
The Kingfisher’s Reign and many of Zdanys’ earlier books can be purchased online. Several can also be purchased from the Sacred Heart bookstore—all of which Zdanys would be “delighted” to sign upon request.
“It’s wonderful to share poetry with people, because poems aren’t just something you read. You experience a poem. You feel a poem. You taste the language of a poem. Poems explore all that life can and, many times, should be,” Zdanys concluded.