Shadow Sounds

Joan Kantor
Photo: Gail Stanton  
In Shadow Sounds, her first poetry collection, Joan Kantor presents poems dealing with childhood, family (both private and public), the natural world, and the world of art. She faces personal and public demons with great honesty and relishes beauty of all kinds with uninhibited zest. Love and loss, hope and despair do battle here, and the victory (won with courage and determination) goes to the stronger impulse: love and hope. They prevail in verse that is clear and direct, yet resonant. You will find underlying surprises here and much reward for multiple readings. Early readers have been enthusiastic about this work that has surprised the poet herself, so sudden and peremptory has its onslaught been. Steve Straight has commented as follows: “The deceptively simple poems of Shadow Sounds often carry a great weight lightly. In her deeply felt impressions of the natural world, in her honest explorations of the challenges and nuances of family relationships, and in her piercing snapshots of civilization’s darker sides, Joan Kantor removes the veil from her soul and shares it with us, in one striking phrase after another.”
Shadow Sounds
  Photo collage “Glorious Marshlands” by Lori Barker and Joan Kantor
And this from David Leff: “In words which are few but carry delicious weight, Joan Kantor invites us to focus our senses. Haunting metaphors and juxtaposed thoughts energize our imagination. Kantor probes the very axis of relationships, as when she asks, ‘Will we still be friends / when her words / have outgrown mine?’ She awakens our awareness with images that turn the mundane to magic: ‘cowlick-spiked’ marsh grass, ‘a shiver of waves...’ A deep read will be well rewarded.”

Joan B. Kantor was born and raised in New York City, whose cultural richness has been a great source of inspiration. She graduated from Queens College with a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Education and then went on to live and teach in Europe for seven years, where she traveled extensively. After receiving her Master’s Degree from Antioch University, Joan became a learning disability specialist and counselor at Manchester Community College, where she continues to work. Married to her high school sweetheart, she has three grown children and a granddaughter. She currently lives on the Farmington River in Collinsville, Connecticut. Joan’s passions for people, nature, traveling and the arts merge in the poetry that she has been writing for most of her life. She has been published in ByLine, Chadder, and Namaste.

Click here to read a sample from Shadow Sounds and here for a half-hour reading by Joan Kantor.
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ISBN 978-0-9843418-1-8
Copyright © 2010 by Joan B. Kantor
6" x 9" paperback, 146 pages




Reality Rites

Subway fingers
stretched their way
out to seashore suburbs
rattling our bones
and dusting shelves
with soot

but we were safe
at home
with backyard barbecues
the beach
and boardwalk

the ocean
cradling us
in blankets of salt air

till one day
a body was found

Our imaginings
followed us
through days
and into nightmares

kept silent
sparing us truth

only scolding
“Stay close to home!”

But we
had to see
for ourselves

I’m not sure
if I ever really looked
or just saw
through the eyes
of friends

the fetal-folded imprint
in the weeds
of the vacant lot
next to the store

whose jingle
rang hollow

School bells ring
and children sing
It’s back
to Robert Hall

I never went back

Before the Feast

for Daddy

I was barely ten
when I found a friend
at 70th and Fifth

The Frick

where for his dissertation
my dad dissected Duccio

while wandering the galleries
I discovered art

We practically lived there
for a year while he wrote

The guards all knew my name

I was the Eloise
of the museum

her Plaza Hotel
meager digs

Sir Thomas Moore
was watching
having eyes
only for me

The girl with the pearl earring
shimmering in light
Her secrets were mine

These paintings

hors d’oeuvres
for the feast
of my life


we scan
the morning news
fingers flipping
through pages

our eyes
to headlines

sipping coffee
nibbling toast
in the winter warmth
of our home

There’s nothing
in the news

That is

you’re there

Through Brussels to Bruegel

Each week
a magnet pulls me
to the Museum of Ancient Art

past lacy architecture

guiding me
’round gothic spires
down cobbled paths
and through the doors

right into the painting
of carnival

where I slip through cracks
on dark glossy paint

seeking out
wicked deeds

lascivious dancing
and ale

and brawling

animals mingling with men
people in trees and on rooftops
enthralled by the scene

I’m watching the devil cavorting
near saints

the magnet’s release


based on Bruegel’s painting “The Kermess”

Bartholomew’s Cobble

Ashley Falls, Massachussetts

I’m in the habit
of studying paintings
not being in them

but when I go
to Bartholomew’s Cobble
cover my skin

as I walk
the rocky knoll
that opens
into meadows
of grazing cows

and weeping trees
towards the river’s
ancient curves

An antique home
stands guard

been here

They Will Be Watching

Children unheard

wondering what’s wrong

from trial and error

their broken questions

in purple-tinged shadows

hiding fears
in fantasy

they recede into walls
become one with walls

The venom and shouting
bounce off them

Shards of shattered plates
nick them

they’ll emerge
to replay the scene

and the walls
the walls
will be watching

The Potter’s Hands

Years haven’t dulled the sting of anticipation

I see each black hair
from my father’s weathered olive skin

flat nails
crusted white

outspread fingers

tendons strung tensely


for slow-motion slaps

those hands
that hovered large
before my child eyes

whose palms
molded spinning clay
into pots
full of fear

But I was made of different clay
and hid from the potter’s wheel

To Be Clay

My father
lived life
all ups and downs

His moods
ruled our days

A child
dressed up
as a man

he knew how to play

Without him
no longer
the same

He had such gifts
to share

but fear and uncertainty
turned me to stone

He was joy
He was rage

I’m so glad
that sometimes

I chose
to be clay

Selective Memories

for Daniel

My most fragile
baby bird
so knobbledy-legged
is chirping
and cheeping
fear and delight

he pumps
and overtakes
the flock

standing up
on the pedals
rattling chains
he whirs
up-down hills

till forgetting
his newness of skill
I steer him astray
he look
at the view

Turning his head
and handlebars
he veers wildly
off the path
bumping downhill
towards a tree

the crash
there is silence

While waiting
long seconds
for breath
to return
he pushes
my comfort

Will his memories
be of flight
or of falling

are of
his trembling
sparrow bones

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