T’shuvah, (Fernwood Press 2023). T’shuvah (תשובה) means repentance in Hebrew. Etymologically, it comes from the root meaning “to return.” One way to understand the logic of that etymology is this: if sin alienates you from both God and yourself, then atoning for sin means returning to yourself as a starting point for deepening your commitment to the life God wants you to lead. The poems in T’shuvah apply this framing to the question of what it means to “return” from the alienation that is inherent in surviving sexual violence, with the caveat, of course, that a survivor of sexual violence has committed no sin and that neither the moralizing nature nor the implicit politics of the phrase “the life God wants you to lead” need by definition to be part of that process.
Words for What Those Men Have Done, (Guernica Editions 2017) explores the impact of childhood sexual violence on manhood and masculinity, gender and sexuality, friendship and fatherhood. The book’s animating question asks what it means for a man who has survived sexual violence to commit himself never to standing on the same side of gender and sexual politics as the men who violated him? Of this book, Richard Hoffman wrote, “Richard Jeffrey Newman’s poems are alert to the possibility of redemption, not by transcending injury and sorrow, but by finding meaning there, and connection to others’ suffering, and the bedrock truth of desire…[The poems’] beauty and power is in their clarity and determined witness.”
The Silence of Men (CavanKerry Press 2006) explores what it means to be a man who breaks the silence into which he was forced by the men who violated him: how breaking that silence inevitably results in the breaking of other silences as well, personal and political. In his Foreword, Yusef Komunyakaa wrote, “Richard Jeffrey Newman’s narrator…dares us, as men, as human beings, to share what we have experienced and imagined—the good and the bad. [T]he speaker in this collection suggests that we are responsible for what we know, for what we’ve witnessed and dreamt, and for what we don’t say to ourselves and each other…The Silence of Men is daring: there’s a moral gesture at the heart of this collection, but the poetry isn’t moralistic or didactic. In fact, when the narrator says, ‘I’m not being hard on myself,’ we know that the whole journey has been about freedom, renewal, and release.”
Ayelet Rose Gottlieb’s jazz ensemble Pneuma made a lovely video of their musical setting of “Light,” one of the poems from The Silence of Men:
For My Son, A Kind of Prayer (Ghostbird Press 2016) gathers into a meditation on family and fatherhood poems that eventually made it into Words For What Those Men Have Done. The book makes a lovely gift for the men in your life, all of whom are sons, and perhaps especially for a man who is a father, or who is contemplating fatherhood. Of For My Son, A Kind of Prayer January Gill O’Neill, author of Rewilding wrote that its “unflinching exploration of the family dynamic…comes from a place of healing.”
The Teller of Tales: Stories from Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh (Junction Press 2011) contains, in translation, the stories of the first five kings from what is often, if contentedly, called the national epic of Iran. The Shahnameh, or Book of Kings, was written in the 10th century by Abol- qasem Ferdowsi, who took as his subject the pre-Islamic history of the Iranian people. The poem is called the Book of Kings because Ferdowsi tells Iran’s story by telling the stories of the nation’s monarchs. Of this book, Iraj Anvar has written, “At a time when Americans need to look deep into Iranian culture, Richard Jeffrey Newman’s excellent translation of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh…maintains the elegance and nobility of the original, opening a window on a literary work so embedded in the collective Persian consciousness that it seems a part of the daily life of every Iranian.” I this book produced under commission from the now-defunct International Society for Iranian Culture, is, unfortunately, out of print.
A Bird In The Garden of Angels (Mazda 2007) is a Rumi reader for the general public, which includes both a discussion of Rumi’s life and times and a selections of Rumi’s prose and poetry, some of which have not been previously translated into English. I was fortunate to be able to work on this volume—I served as co-translator of all the verse it contains—with Professor John Moyne, a renowned Rumi scholar. Professor Moyne collaborated with Coleman Barks on some of Barks’ versions of Rumi and a few of the pieces in this book represent Moyne’s revisions of those earlier works.
Selections from Saadi’s Bustan (Global Scholarly Publications 2006), which I produced under commission from the now-defunct International Society for Iranian Culture, is, unfortunately, out of print. Saadi of Shiraz, a contemporary of Rumi, is one of the luminaries of the Persian literary canon. He completed Bustan in 1257. Perhaps the closest parallel we have in English literature is the work of Alexander Pope, whose moral essays delve into much the same territory, though Saadi seems to have a wider range of concerns, combining a realistic and pragmatic approach to life with a mystical perspective in a way that Pope does not. Pope and Saadi so share, however, a proclivity for saying what was on their minds, and there are passages in Bustan where Saadi shows real courage, given that the book was written for the ruler who was his patron.
Selections from Saadi’s Gulistan (Global Scholarly Publications 2004), which I produced under commission from the now-defunct International Society for Iranian Culture, is, unfortunately, out of print. Saadi of Shiraz, a contemporary of Rumi, is one of the luminaries of the Persian literary canon. Gulistan, which he completed in 1258, is his best known work in the West. In part, this is because so much of the book’s sensibility is in keeping with what we would call a humanistic worldview, though that is ultimately a reductive way of understanding the text. Saadi wrote Gulistan for his patron. Nonetheless, he shows great courage in speaking truth to power. Even all these centuries later, Gulistan is a book that has much to teach us.
Veils Halos & Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women (Kasva Press 2016) is the first-ever anthology of international poetry specifically addressing the oppression and empowerment of women. The book includes more than 250 extraordinary poems from every continent, contributed by some of the world’s most accomplished living poets. My poem, “For My Son, A Kind of Prayer” first appeared in this volume. Veils, Halos & Shackles is available for purchase from the publisher, Kasva Press.
VOICE MALE: The Untold Story of the Profeminist Men’s Movement (Interlink Books 2014) takes you inside one of the most important social justice movements you may never have heard of—the social transformation of masculinity. Although it’s been underway since the late 1970s, it still largely remains under the radar of much of society.Thematically arranged essays by leading experts and moving first-person stories illustrate how a growing movement of changing men has discovered in feminism the basis for redefining masculinity and creating healthier lives.The longtime editor of Voice Male magazine, Rob introduces audiences to men examining contemporary manhood from a variety of perspectives—from boys on the journey to manhood to men overcoming violence; from fatherhood and mentoring to navigating life as a man of color; as a gay man, and as a survivor. I have two poems in the anthology, both from The Silence Of Men, “After The Funeral” and “The Taste of A Little Boy’s Trust.”
Birds Fall Silent In The Mechanical Sea (great weather for media 2019) is an “exhilarating collection of contemporary poetry and fiction from established and emerging writers across the United States and beyond. The anthology also contains an interview with musician/artist Walter Steding.” A poem from my sequence “This Sentence Is A Metaphor For Bridge” appears in this anthology.
The Waiting Room Reader, Volume 1 (CavanKerry Press 2009) Patients, while waiting to learn about their physical health, typically are provided only pop culture magazines—perhaps entertaining but without the solace and comfort that literature provides. The Waiting Room Reader was designed to address that need by bringing fine and accessible writing to “keep the patients company.” Here are uplifting and inspiring poems that focus on life’s gifts — everyday pleasures: love and family, food and home, work and play, dreams and the earth. This collection, originally offered only to hospitals and physicians’ waiting rooms, was received with great success and is now available to a wider audience.
Like Light (Bright Hill Press 2019) A celebration of Bright Hill’s 25 years, “Like Light” represents a cross section of the thousands of writers who have read their work at BHP and whose work has been published by Bright Hill; the writers are from the USA, Canada, the UK, and Europe. The work in the anthology also represents the diversity of and wide interests of the contributors. Like Light is available for purchase from Bright Hill Books.
Boyhood: Growing Up Male (University of Wisconsin Press 1998) is “by turns touching, funny, poignant, and painful, Boyhood chronicles the road to manhood through the personal narratives and poems of accomplished writers from around the world.” The essay of mine included in this volume, “Where The Pain Is Buried,” was perhaps the first publication in which I acknowledged publicly that I had been sexually violated as a boy. Other contributors include Shepherd Bliss, Robert Bly, Edward Field, John Gilgun, Fred Wei-han Ho, Terry A. Kupers, Rakesh Ratti, John Silva, Malidoma P. Somé, Sy Safransky, Bhante Wimala, and many others.
Men & Intimacy: Personal Accounts Exploring the Dilemmas of Modern Male Sexuality (The Crossing Press 1990) This book is out of print, though it is available on Amazon and from other online booksellers. The piece I have in it, “Fertility and Virility: A Meditation on Sperm,” was first published in the long and unfortunately defunct magazine Changing Men. I wrote it in the late 1980s in response to what was then just beginning to be a recurring objection to women’s reproductive right: the idea not only that men also had such rights, but that our rights extended into the pregnancy of a woman with whom we had conceived a child. That seemed to me (and still seems) a truly ridiculous idea, so I wanted to see how taking women’s reproductive rights seriously, as an absolute right—at least in the sense that men had no rights in determining whether or not a pregnant woman should give birth or have an abortion—I wanted to see how taking that seriously would impact how I thought about my own sexuality and reproductive capabilities.