Lift-Off: New and Selected Poems, 1961-2001

by Herschel Silverman. 2002. 189 pages. A joint publication of Water Row Books and Long Shot Publications.

Book Review by

Reading Herschel Silverman’s poetry is hearing a tight, well-rehearsed jazz ensemble and a flight of beautiful birds against a hard blue sky over the Hudson River. His poetry booms and purrrrs with the music of the urban trumpet troubadour word master. No doubt, once a upon a time, Herschel Silverman was touched by the energetic, angelic poetry of the Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso and Jack Kerouac and since then his poetry has taken the Beat ethos and modified and molded it personal, enhanced and enriched it like mountains and Taj Mahal, and he has made his own mark of it, a poetry utterly spiritual and powerful. Because reading his poetry is so much music done with ear, as well as heart, and like listening to your favorite music, you wish to hear it, again and again and this was my experience of this most pleasantly large collection of Herschel Silverman’s poetry. The emotion that pulled me back into it was love. Truly this poetry spreads the spiritually of finding godhead in all things. The poetry honors, a form of love, the literary folk who have made the literary spiritual quest center to their lives and art. One of my favorite cuts is the poem simply titled: 5/14/98. The scenario of the poem, so to speak, is a jubilant, heart felt, literary celebration for the spirit departed poet brother/father Allen Ginsberg juxtaposed with the glitzy surrounding of the final episode the mass-culture and lifeless TV sit-com Seinfeld. The poem asks the question: where were you that night - with the spirit of Ginsberg or engaged in and with….? I can answer that question. I know where I was in spirit and now I am in this book of poetry also. And you may also be. So it is in this book of pounding beats and celebrations of the Beats. It is introduced most adequately by Marchell Brooks. It is organized into three large sections: Bopogrpahy, High on the Beats and Lift-Off. There are most wonderfully long poems in the book, which allow Silverman to work his rift music magic, as in the intensely rhythmically powerful rolling thunder poem: Cittee Cittee Cittee IV. Silverman’s Lift-Off poem is of particular interest. It is a long series covering an entire section of the book. Yes - it is a serial poem. It is a most positive poem in a most wonder filled book of celebration. I would say that it is blossoming with love. There are poems dedicated to Ginsberg, Corso, Kerouac, Olson, Bremser, Bernadette Myers and many more. Reading it cover to cover in one early morning jam session with black coffee, I have to say again, again, I started reading it again.