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Art People: Howard Faerstein | poet

  • Howard Faerstein stands in the kitchen of his Florence home Tuesday, March 19. Poetry he is working on is taped to the wall.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Howard Faerstein stands in the kitchen of his Florence home Tuesday, March 19. Poetry he is working on is taped to the wall.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Howard Faerstein, a poet, talks about his life and work at his home in Florence Tuesday, March 19.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Howard Faerstein, a poet, talks about his life and work at his home in Florence Tuesday, March 19.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Howard Faerstein, a poet, at his home in Florence Tuesday, March 19.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Howard Faerstein, a poet, at his home in Florence Tuesday, March 19.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Howard Faerstein, a poet, talks about his life and work at his home in Florence Tuesday, March 19.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Howard Faerstein, a poet, talks about his life and work at his home in Florence Tuesday, March 19.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Howard Faerstein, a poet, talks about his life and work at his home in Florence Tuesday, March 19.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Howard Faerstein, a poet, talks about his life and work at his home in Florence Tuesday, March 19.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Howard Faerstein, a poet, talks about his life and work at his home in Florence Tuesday, March 19.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Howard Faerstein, a poet, talks about his life and work at his home in Florence Tuesday, March 19.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Howard Faerstein stands in the kitchen of his Florence home Tuesday, March 19. Poetry he is working on is taped to the wall.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Howard Faerstein, a poet, talks about his life and work at his home in Florence Tuesday, March 19.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Howard Faerstein, a poet, at his home in Florence Tuesday, March 19.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Howard Faerstein, a poet, talks about his life and work at his home in Florence Tuesday, March 19.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Howard Faerstein, a poet, talks about his life and work at his home in Florence Tuesday, March 19.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Howard Faerstein, a poet, talks about his life and work at his home in Florence Tuesday, March 19.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

As Howard Faerstein sees it, inspiration for poetry can come from a lot of places, but it rarely comes in anything but fragmentary form. He might recall something from a dream, hear a phrase that resonates or plumb his journal. Sometimes he’ll resurrect a line of two from an unfinished poem that he keeps in what he calls his “boneyard.”

“I look at poetry as an assemblage,” he says. “I’m doing carpentry — I’m taking separate pieces and building something whole. One of my favorite writers, Gabriel García Márquez, once said, ‘All literature is carpentry,’ and I think that’s right.”

Faerstein, of Florence, has been writing poems for years and has been published in various journals, but it’s only recently that his first collection has been published. And “Dreaming of the Rain in Brooklyn,” by Press 53 of Winston-Salem, N.C., showcases another source for his verse: a long and varied life.

A Brooklyn native, Faerstein, 66, worked for years for New York’s former Off-Track Betting operation before a divorce sent him wandering the high desert country of northern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado. Then he migrated by way of New Hampshire and the Berkshires to Florence, where he’s lived for 13 years.

Now an adjunct professor of American literature at Westfield State University, Faerstein has mined that potpourri of experiences in poems that evoke his Brooklyn childhood, the jazz and doo-wop of his teens, the drugs and chaos of the 1960s and the harsh beauty of the desert. Along the way he reflects on love and hope, and loss and isolation, in a voice that’s alternately ironic, tender or riffing like a jazz solo.

In “Kindling,” a meditation on the quiet of winter — “Counting finches fox-trotting on husk-covered snow” — becomes an ode to an older lover: “Thinking when I read your history in the tracery / of those crosshatched lines / how beautiful your crow’s feet are—/ tracks of filigree / etched in powder / by sparrow and dove claw.”

Faerstein jokes that he’s less disciplined than he should be — he’s not up at 5 a.m. to write — but he’s often thinking of poetry even if he’s not composing. In one room at home, he tapes work in progress on the wall, revisiting the poems to consider changes. A poem might go through 30 drafts or more before he’s happy with it or discards it altogether.

“Someone I know said, ‘You’re so fussy!’ ” he said. “But I’m always revising — you have to keep at it.”

— Steve Pfarrer

Howard Fearstein will read from “Dreaming of the Rain in Brooklyn” Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Broadside Bookshop in Northampton, on April 11 at 7 p.m. at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley and on April 16 at 6 p.m. at Ely Library at Westfield State University.

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