In this book Frank X. Gaspar establishes his landscape, his straightforward diction, his precise observation, and his loyalty to his roots—qualities that are never abandoned but continue to develop throughout his later work. Taken as a whole, the book can be read as an elegy to a lost world—one peopled with fisherman and laborers and wives and mothers, all adhering, to one degree or another, to an Old-World Catholic way of life. The men fish in the perilous North Atlantic waters. The old ones, the velhos and velhas, still speak in the old tongue and dream of the green hills of their Azorean homeland. That world has largely vanished, but it is not completely lost, for the poet keeps it alive, first in memory and then in art. “First Snow” is about the arrival of another mouth to feed, but it also details daily life in that unnamed fishing town. The mother sifts coal ashes from the parlor stove; the uncle splits kindling on the sidewalk. In other poems we see the family heating the house’s bathwater stovetop in a copper tub, or the young protagonist diving for money thrown by tourists. But in each poem, no matter how everyday life is rendered, something deeper, something lying behind or beyond the everyday, is sought for: “They reach into their pockets/and stars fall around you./You scoop them from the world/while the quiet longing/comes to you, aching deep/in the lobes of your chest.” Longing, observing, wondering, marveling—The Holyoke explores the small raptures and terrors, the jubilations and laments, of a life both profoundly sensed and gracefully examined.
Published by the Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.