The danger in reading the work of extraordinary poets like George Bilgere is in assuming its simplicity. Bilgere’s “Blood Pages” is a collection of poems about the commonplace, such as nodding at the mail carrier, eavesdropping on a couple of gelled-up finance-type guys at a bar while he and a friend talk sports and beer, abandoning a packaged tour of the Vatican in favor of a fountained square with a glass of wine at a sidewalk café.
Some poems are more sober, like “I Tie My Shoes,” in which the narrator is walking home when he realizes that he is half a block behind an acquaintance whom he ordinarily would greet, but instead he stops to pretend to tie his shoes because he doesn’t want to talk to the man, who has been sinking deeper into depression since his son was killed by a drunk driver. In “Letter to the Dying,” the narrator struggles to write a letter to a friend without acknowledging that the friend is dying, while still making it clear that they both know he’s dying.
The title poem, “Blood Pages,” is about a book Bilgere’s young son received, about whales and their habitats, species, life cycles and evolution. Only two pages contain bloody pictures of trawlers with whales being hauled on the deck, wounded and dying, but those are the only pages his son wants to see.
“Blood Pages” (80 pages, softcover) costs $15.95 from the University of Pittsburgh Press. George Bilgere is a professor of literature at John Carroll University in Cleveland. His awards include the Pushcart Prize and the University of Akron Poetry Award.
George Bilgere will read from and sign “Blood Pages” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch of Cuyahoga County Public Library, 1876 S. Green Road, South Euclid. Register at 216-382-4880.
'A Year in the Woods'
Some of America’s oldest forests have been cut down by loggers; according to Joan Maloof, executive director of the Old-Growth Forest Network, less than 1 percent of original forests remain in the eastern United States. Wadsworth photographer Ron Schaefer looks at one of them in “A Year in the Woods: The Effect of Seasonal Change on Johnson Woods, an Ohio Old Growth Forest.”
Johnson Woods, about 206 acres in Marshallville, is a significant old-growth forest with trees more than 400 years old, including oak and hickory. The land was bought in 1823 by Jacob Conrad, Andrew Johnson’s great-grandfather, and remained intact thanks to Johnson’s mother; after the president’s death in 1875, his widow sold the tract to the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.
Schaefer, a retired rubber scientist, spent a year visiting Johnson Woods, capturing the same vistas in different seasons. He describes the land as “a swamp forest that ... is seasonally flooded with fresh water.” Vernal pools provide spawning grounds for frogs and salamanders, and nesting birds find insects and small prey easy to locate. In the summer, the pools dry up and wildflowers are in full bloom, and fungus grows on fallen logs.
In autumn, of course, the leaves turn and deer mating season is underway, and in winter moss and ferns can be found beneath the snow.
Schaefer’s observations about animals, flowers and the seasons complement his brilliant photos on glossy pages.
“A Year in the Woods” (191 pages, softcover) costs $28. It is currently sold at the Wilderness Center in Wilmot and will be available soon from online retailers. It was published by the Wooster Book Co., whose retail outlet has closed.
Hudson Library & Historical Society (96 Library St.): Seats may remain to see Sheila Tate, former press secretary to Nancy Reagan, who will discuss “Lady in Red: An Intimate Portrait of Nancy Reagan,” at 7 p.m. Monday. Call 330-653-6658.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Strongsville branch, 18700 Westwood Drive): Bernie Kosar signs “Learning to Scramble,” 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Register at 440-238-5530.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Independence branch, 6361 Selig Blvd.): David Giffels will talk about “Furnishing Eternity: A Father, A Son, A Coffin, and a Measure of Life,” 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Register at 216-447-0160.
Mandel Jewish Community Center (26001 S. Woodland Road, Beachwood): Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook close out the Cleveland Jewish Book Festival with their “Israeli Soul: Easy, Essential, Delicious,” 7 p.m. Thursday. Admission is $25, or $36 including the book; a meet-and-greet reception including autographed book and reserved seating is $200; see mandeljcc.org. Solomonov and Cook’s “Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking” was the James Beard Foundation’s 2016 Book of the Year.
Barnes & Noble (28801 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere): Liz Ferro signs “Girls with Sole: A Girl Power Guide to Unleashing Your Inner Superhero!” 2 p.m. Saturday.
Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or email@example.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.