God Lives in Norway and Goes by Christie by Arnie Yasinski, 21st Century Renaissance 2021 was launched by Alison Hackett in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland on 24 July 2021
Arnie Yasinski reads ‘Draft Lottery, 1969’
Perhaps some of you don’t often read poetry or come to poetry readings: if so, be not afraid. Give yourself permission to read each poem slowly, read it again, let it reveal its nuanced taste, like slow food. There are sweet hits in this second collection (see ‘Postcards from the pandemic’ or ‘My sixth chicken painting in as many weeks’), find lifts of recognition, quiet-smile-to-self moments, moments when you too might have been in a gallery and found the commentary on the self-guided tour to be “wordy and uninformative”, “droning descriptions of what’s right in front of you.” I won’t name the gallery but leave you to figure it out by reading the poem, ‘Cool Water’, and enjoying its delicious colour-drenched end.
The poems in this collection fell into natural pairs; the long list became a short list a clear tone came through, a sinfonia emerging with a crescendo half-way through in Draft Lottery, 1969, easing back down through the ekphrastic poems (poems responding to artwork) and ending in the slow movement of the title poem: a poetry collection to be read in one sitting — a beginning, middle, an end.
The collection opens with Arnie anchored in his present life in Ireland, swimming at the Forty Foot in Changing
Irish swimmers bring their togs in a bag,
wrap a towel around, wriggle out of
underwear and into the suit. I’m not
limber enough for it, needing to beg
modesty and face the wall.
and later, in this light-touch sonnet, he turns our attention to the changes in himself as time takes its toll, yet gives us the spirit of a man forever in his prime.
Later, the mood shifts from Ireland to the U.S. as Arnie reflects on his peripatetic past living in VA towns, and being one of the young men in the 1969 U.S. draft lottery (yes, a human lottery). He was living with his wife and child in married-student housing in Indiana:
a boy bent over a fading radio,
hoping the static doesn’t mean
my birthday’s been called, but I don’t
know it yet.
The title poem, ‘God Lives in Norway and Goes by Christie’, comes at the end of the collection. While it appears to be about a painting of a man Arnie imagines as God, a god who is getting old and tired, it is really about him, Arnie, feeling he is getting old and tired, and couldn’t do it all again.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. (the “gash” of a wall) is the inspiration for the cover illustration and design by Nick Geoghegan — Nick is a young man and not really into poetry, but, on reading Arnie’s poems was very much taken with them — they resonated: he could imagine the feeling of being a young man frightened for his life in the draft lottery; he could identify with, in ‘Pieta’, the feelings and the confusion of being in college, already married and with a son
cradled on my lap. In some ways, I was
younger than him, twenty, married only
months, determined to take responsibility,
Yeats once said, “We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.” After reading this collection, what remains is this: Arnie’s gentle quarrel with himself, his disarming honesty in recalling moments of fear, joy, loss and love, doubt and embarrassment. The human condition writ large.
Please show Arnie Yasinski your appreciation for presenting us with his second collection: God lives in Norway and goes by Christie.
Arnie Yasinski reads ‘God lives in Norway and goes by Christie’
– Alison Hackett
21st Century Renaissance is a small press founded by Trinity College Dublin graduate , Alison Hackett, in 2012. It focuses on history, illustration and poetry placing the highest value on the imagination and skills of the writers and illustrators — all based in Ireland — who create its books and art works. Hackett’s first imprint/publication, The Visual Time Traveller, was selected for the Global Irish Design Challenge exhibitions of 2016. This publication and all 21CR’s non-fiction publications are now held at the Library of Congress and several U.S. university libraries including Harvard and Notre Dame. The Visual Time Traveller and Proposition were presented to the President of Ireland as a gift in 2019.
God Lives in Norway and Goes by Christie by Arnie Yasinski is available from