Facing Mirrors and Further Reflections

Collaborations with Robert Fossum

Robert Fossum with Sy Kahn, 2005.

Sy Kahn and Robert Fossum became friends in 1955, when they were both young professors teaching at the same university. Their friendship has flourished throughout their lives, which have included parallel experiences. The two poets have published two books together, one in 1985 and the other in 2005:

"We count the poetry subjects and themes as typical -- and perhaps prophetic for those younger than ourselves -- and probably familiar to our contemporaries. Poetry permits and encourages statements of individual perception and feeling which, we trust, will find resonance among all who read us."
(from the foreward of Further Reflections)

Robert Fossum & Sy Kahn

Twowindows Press
Berkeley, 1980

A book of poems printed letterpress
with Baskerville & Hadriano types
on Mohawk Superfine neutral ph paper
and Smyth sewn in wrappers.

From the 1980 Afterward:
"Robert Fossum and Sy Kahn are both in their mid-fifties and have been friends for a quarter century. Colleagues in the English Department at Beloit College during the 1950's, they both currently teach in California, Fossum at Claremont Men's College and Kahn at University of the Pacific. They have both held Fulbright professorships in American literature at the University of Vienna. It seems fitting that they have now collaborated on a book of poems.

Although not by calculated design, their parallel careers and experiences have inevitably led them to treat similar subjects in their poems. Yet each man brings his own voice, his own perspective and attitudes, his own mode of poetic expression to these subjects."

The sample poem from this book, shown below,
may not be reproduced without permission.
© Sy Kahn.

by Sy Kahn

When hibernation is in season,
I m in or out of reason.
When other bears for honey roam,
I have nightmares at high noon.

Most bears follow destined cycles
From cubhood to their mating ground,
Prowl in spring, bask in summer,
Over hulk of shoulder notice autumn,
Seek a cave in which to smolder
Thru their winter daze.

My clock runs counter,
Out of time and out of season.
I seem to live by different reason,
Not by berry, not by snow
But only what I seem to know,
Signals from interior weather.

To all bears who have not been caught
And live according to their seasons,
Rimed and reasoned with their time.
I send them friendly greeting.
They are naturally sublime.

And my regrets I also send
To bears on bikes in circus tents,
To bears who pace within their cages,
To bears who dance for meager wages
And roar, on cue, in histrionic rages.

I am a bear to bare for thorns,
Must have honey, must have air
When bears sleep fat within their lair.
I may be shot quite out of season.

Lair makes no liar of me,
Liar no lair.
I am not
I am not
I am not your ordinary bear.


Robert Fossum & Sy Kahn

Paradigm Press
Providence, 2005
This edition was designed
by the Carlotta Institute
and printed in 11 point Garamond
in Providence, R.I. in a run of 400 copies.

From the 2005 Foreward:
"Twenty-five years ago Robert Fossum and Sy Kahn published a book of their poems under the title Facing Mirrors. The book, in iteself, was a testimony to an abiding friendship that began in 1955, when they both taught at Beloit College, and prevails to this day, fifty years later.

As did the earlier book, this collection suggest in its title that our lives have been lived in parallels, too often to be merely coincidental. Nevertheless, these latter poems report and speculate on individual and often parallel experiences which indeed bind our friendship. It seems natural to us to present our poems together -- quite likely for the final time, and that these poems would reveal the autumn colors of our lives and experiences."

The sample poem from this book, shown below,
may not be reproduced without permission.
© Sy Kahn.

The Big Boo-Hoo:
Night Song on a Cold Corner

by Sy Kahn

Oh my mother and my father,
My sister and my brother,
My grandpa and my grandma too.
And I am here, and they are there,
Gone underground or up the flue.
And I am left with the big boo-hoo,
I'm left with the big boo-hoo.

From out of the air they came to despair
To live, laugh and love, my dears.
But time warped their journey
That ended on a gurney
To the tune of the big boo-hoo,
The tune of the big boo-hoo.

No longer here, they are there,
And I stand here alone, boo-hoo.
And who shall say if there
Is here, or here is there
In the circle of grand despair,
The circle of grand despair.

Oh they danced their dance
Up and down the stair,
'Til they tripped and fell, boo-hoo.
I stood at the bottom
But I could not catch them!
They fell flat and still, boo-hoo,
Flat and still, boo-hoo.

So it's good-bye mother, and good-bye sister,
And father and brother too,
And it's good-bye aunties and also great uncle,
And grandma and grandpa too.
But on the stage of my mind,
They pass in a grand review, boo-hoo,
They pass in a grand review.

Because they were here, so I am here,
For better or worse, boo-hoo.
But there, my dears, may be nowhere
Except the theatre of the mind, boo-hoo,
Where they play out their roles, boo-hoo, boo-hoo,
Their roles play out, boo-hoo.

Now I'm ex-son, and ex-brother,
Ex-grandson and ex-nephew too,
And I am here, and they are there,
And I'm left with the big boo-hoo,
I'm left with the big boo-hoo.

C 0 N T E N T S:

by Sy Kahn

In a Tall Wind
Generous Fall
A Little Simple Music, Please
The Woman in the Bottle
The Accident
Modern Abstract
Bed-Check Charlie
In the Writing Room of the American Colony Hotel, Jerusalem
Compute Me Not
Song of the Bear
From a Cool Shade
Psychedelic Ain't Idylic
Tranxene and Valium Be Damned
Passing by in Silence
Worshipping Agape
Earth Song

by Robert Fossum

The Days of Division
Laguna Shore
Old Movie Quiz
Midwestern Boys
HomeComings and Goings
When She Was Small
Son and Lover
St. James's Park
The Van Gogh Museum
Christmas in Hamburg
Lost Generation Gap
Lament for Obsolescent Sinners
Professor Cranston
Coronary Case
Revival Meeting
Morning Glory

C 0 N T E N T S:

In Defense of Stillness
Visiting Hours
While Reading Obituaries
Apples Descending
The Big Boo Hoo: Night Song on a Cold Corner

The Men on Mortimer Street, London: February 1982
The Crows of Vienna
European Cemetery
Old Union Wharf, Port Townsend: 1995
Interstate 5, South
From a Patio on Cliff Drive

Requiem for my Grandfather
Carnival, 1937

Recollections of War
I. Consequences
II. Guard Duty, Cape Gloucester, New Britain, 1944
III. The Burning Man
As Breezes Move
On the Boardwalk

Wisconsin Seasons
The Arc
Friday Afternoons
The Contract

The Fall
Behind Green Shades
Point of Views

In the Zoo
Two Butterflies
Elegy for a Neighbor's Cat

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