Monday, February 7, 2022

A.M. Juster

A.M. Juster is a champion of formal verse in his work as a poet, as a translator, and as a critic. His tenth book of poetry is Wonder and Wrath (2020, Paul Dry Books). He also serves as Poetry Editor for Plough Quarterly.

As a translator he has brought to English Latin works by Petrarch, Horace, Tibullus, St. Aldelm, and Maximianus, as well as a book-length collection of John Milton’s Latin elegies. He has also translated poems from French, Italian, Chinese, and the east African language Oromo.

In 2010, Paul Mariani revealed, in the pages of First Things, A.M. Juster’s alternate identity. He is Michael James Astrue, who at the time was the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration in Washington, D.C. Mariani pointed out the subtle hint in Juster’s poem “Candid Headstone”―
-------Here lies what’s left of Michael Juster,
-------A failure filled with bile and bluster.
-------Regard the scuttlebutt as true.
-------Feel free to dance; most others do.

Juster is a Catholic, who is celebrated for his wit and finely-crafted light verse. The title of his 2016 collection, Sleaze & Slander: New and Selected Comic Verse, 1995-2015, makes this clear enough. His wit and creativity also comes through in his parody The Billy Collins Experience (2016, Kelsay Books).

Cancer Prayer

Dear Lord,

Please flood her nerves with sedatives
and keep her strong enough to crack a smile
so disbelieving friends and relatives
can temporarily sustain denial.

Please smite that intern in oncology
who craves approval from department heads.
Please ease her urge to vomit; let there be
kind but flirtatious men in nearby beds.

Given her hair, consider amnesty
for sins of vanity; make mirrors vanish.
Surround her with forgiving family
and nurses not too numb to cry. Please banish

trite consolations; take her in one swift
and gentle motion as your final gift.

Posted with permission of the poet.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.