THE BOOK: “Unassisted Living.”
PUBLISHED IN: 2017
THE AUTHOR: Jim Gustafson
THE PUBLISHER: Big Table Publishing, Boston, MA
SUMMARY: These poems spring from winter in Southwest Florida. In the constant warmth, it is easier it seems for the elderly to deny the truth of life’s closing snow. Some poems drift north to youth and disquieting memories, others return to reflect on nature, the nature of things, and the natural progression of relationship and time.
THE BACK STORY: When I turned sixty-seven years old, I decided to return to graduate school and pursue an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Tampa, which is just 130 miles north of my home in Fort Myers, Florida. Being surrounded by much younger students fanned my smoldering awareness of age. The poems in “Unassisted Living” come from my reflections and observations during the years of my graduate studies.
WHY THIS TITLE?: “Unassisted Living” comes from my ongoing internal battle about the seemingly inevitable decision that so many confront when their activities for daily living become limited and they must find a place where they can be “assisted.” My mother spent her last years and died in such a place. Indeed, that place is just up the road from where I now live. I drive by it every day, wave to her, and contemplate living there when I become a burden to others or can no longer be trusted and safe.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Poetry is a conversation between the reader and the speaker of the poem. I hope readers find this dialogue thoughtful, challenging, and occasionally humorous.
REVIEW COMMENTS: “The work here covers the great swath of a fully lived life, pairing wisdom and nostalgia with a reminder that our desires never diminish as we age. The end result is a book teeming with insight and generosity.” — Steve Kistulentz, Author of The Luckless and Little Black Daydream.”
“Gustafson is distinguished by his discerning eye and his journeying spirit.” — ~Sandra Beasley, author of Count the Waves and I Was the Jukebox.
“With courage and deftness, Gustafson’s muse nobly refuses the tendered lies so often associated with time and aging. These songs of experience remind us that “each moment/is a different stream/never the current.” Quietly outraged gifts, these are. Gifts, indeed.” — Donald Morrill, author of A Waiting Your Impossibilities
AUTHOR PROFILE: Jim Gustafson holds a M. Div. from Garrett Theological Seminary in his home town of Evanston, Illinois and an MFA from the University of Tampa. He is the author of a poetry chapbook, Driving Home, (Aldrich Press, 2013), and a collection of essays, Take Fun Seriously (Limitless Press, 2008), and Unassisted Living (Big Table Publishing, 2017). In previous lives, Jim was a Vice President for CBS Radio, a clergyman, pastoral counselor, bartender, janitor, and drummer. He currently teaches creative writing at Florida Gulf Coast University. Jim and his wife Connie live in Fort Myers, Florida where he reads, writes, and pulls weeds. http://www.jimgustafson.com
AUTHOR COMMENTS: I think poets write because they must. I think, too, that poems arise from pain and struggle. I know when I write, I tend to drift to what is unresolved within. I suspect the unresolved is universal and art in any genre is an effort to speak, if only in a whisper, to that issue.
Don’t ever assist my living,
set me out by the road instead.
Let someone who finds something
they can use pick me up,
carry me away.
Don’t ever buy all my clothing
exactly the same. Don’t make white
the color of all my socks,
shorts all navy blue, or shod me
with cheap beige canvas no-lace shoes.
Don’t ever tie a bib around my neck
to feed soft food with a spoon
and mistake my expression
Don’t ever lift my pants
around my thighs to stuff
them with my diaper
When I can no longer flush
my waste away, freshen your own
air with scented spray.
Don’t ever put me in a shower
chair so you can wash me
with thin, latex-covered hands.
If I cannot stand to soap
myself, let the dirt cells spawn
their crusty layer upon my skin.
Don’t ever suggest I walk
with more than a cane.
Three legs should be plenty
to make one’s way.
When that is insufficient,
roll me like rug to the curb,
where I will wait unassisted,
WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.RICE: $14.95