Book Bag: “The Windbreak Pine” by Wally Swist; “Healing Anxiety” by Mary Friedman Ryan

Thursday, January 19, 2017


By Wally Swist

Snapshot Press


Amherst poet Wally Swist has enjoyed a very productive period in the last several years, publishing a number of new works as well as a collaborative one with two other poets. He’s offered a variety of verse in his career, and he’s also worked as a journalist, essayist and reviewer; “Singing for Nothing,” a collection of 40 years worth of selected nonfiction, is due to be published next year.

Swist first made his mark writing haiku, and his latest book celebrates 30 years of his short verse. “The Windbreak Pine,” by Snapshot Press of Great Britain, offers new and uncollected haiku by Swist written between 1985 and 2015; it’s the 11th volume of haiku he’s published.

As in much of his poetry, Swist finds inpiration in nature, focusing on the small details and intimacy of the western Massachusetts landscape: the rustle of wind through treetops, the buzz of insects in a sun-dappled meadow, water running in a shady brook, wildflowers at the side of a country road.

In “The Windbreak Pine,” there’s a sense both of time passing but also the timelessness of nature, and the peace that can come from being in the moment — the latter a reflection of the poet’s study of Eastern religion and philosophy. The 116 haiku in the collection are arranged to reflect the passage of the seasons and the impressions each leaves behind.

Early spring gets its due with poems such as “spring snow — / an unopened bud at the end / of each branch of the dogwood” and “gust of morning wind — / the clattering lids / of the sugaring buckets.”

Summer brings thunderstorms, birdsong, deep grass and heat; the images Swist invokes are of the richness of new growth, such as “spiraling over / the rusted mailbox — / wild yellow roses.”

Snapshot Press seems an aptly named publisher for these short poems, as they are indeed brief moments in time and sensibility, where the poet finds something to honor even as winter’s cold and darkness arrive, like “from the roof of the barn — / gusting snow arises / into iridescence.”

Swist says he has two books of longer poems due out later this year. Until they arrive, these short ones will do nicely: John Barlow, editor and publisher of Snapshot Press, says Swist’s haiku “celebrate the timeless, essential connections that humankind seems intent on disregarding more and more with each passing year.”



By Mary Friedman Ryan

Born Perfect Ink


As the pace of life steadily increases — think 24/7 news cycles, people glued to digital screens, jobs that have no real off-switch — stress and anxiety, for many, become the inevitable result.

A Northampton publisher of books on Eastern medicine is offering an antidote to that with its most recent title.

“Healing Anxiety,” by Born Perfect Ink, illustrates how ancient Tibetan practices — from food and aromatics, to meditation, to exercise — have been used to treat anxiety in Tibet and other parts of Asia.

“Healing Anxiety” is written by Dr. Mary Friedman Ryan, an English biologist and medical anthropologist who spent several years in Tibet studying these methods alongside Dr. (Lady) Dadhorn Jamling, the first female personal physician to the Dalia Lama.

Using the results from numerous case studies, Ryan discusses the life-force energy known in Tibet as rLung and how it can become unbalanced, leading to anxiety and depression — and how that force can be corrected.

“Healing Anxiety” also includes over 200 color photographs illustrating exercises, ingredients for healing food and other means for treating anxiety.

There will be a book launch for “Healing Anxiety” Thursday at 6 p.m. at Booklink Booksellers in Thornes Market in Northampton.