Gabriel Spera's first book of poems, The Standing Wave, was selected by Dave Smith for the 2002 National Poetry Series and was published by Harper Collins (New York). The book also received the 2004 Literary Book Award for Poetry from PEN USA-West. An e-book version is available for the Kindle and other e-book readers. Signed copies are also available directly from the author for $10 (Request a copy).
Reviews of The Standing Wave can be found in the following publications:
Amazon.com: "Gabriel Spera takes words beyond poetry and steps into a space so exquisite and rare it can only be described as a spiritual reverence for experience. His poems are complex art forms surfacing from the deep ocean of his experience."
The Missouri Review (26:3): "…tiptoes a fine line, maintaining a balance between formalism and free verse, traditional tropes and verbal originality…. The result is often spectacular."
Poetry, Feb. 2004: "There is some formal imagination on display in these poems, and the images are … vividly evoked."
The Raleigh News & Observer, Sunday, Aug. 31 2003: "It distinguishes itself with intelligence, wit, impeccable technique and openness, and it has real substance to impart."
Greensboro News & Record, Sept. 20, 2003: "Spera demands we look, and look carefully. Infused with imagery that transforms olives, bats, mosquito larvae, jellyfish, even humble spiders into objects of Whitmanesque wonder, the detailed lines in 'The Standing Wave' are crystalline with clarity, even as they search for explanations from a snarled world of conflicting messages."
From the judges' statement, 2004 PEN Center USA Literary Book Award for Poetry:
The Standing Wave, by Gabriel Spera, the winner of the PEN Center USA Literary Award in Poetry, is a book that demanded our attention for the emotional range of the poems and for the maturity of craft exhibited there. In short, this book is extraordinary. Spera reminds us of Elizabeth Bishop with poems so packed with metaphor we seem in 2004 almost to have forgotten how to read them. Metaphor is suspect in these days of flat statement and moral outrage, but Spera doesn't care, and reading this book we remember that we love metaphor, love the old ways of speaking, not only in an individual voice but in the collective voice of our conscience. And when we read these poems, we know why poetry has power to reach across time and space. Never totally personal, the first poems force us to ask our old questions about the nature of God—Yahweh, Buddha, Christ—and the devil in all the usual guises of human greed, violence, and indifference.
The voice of the book, always cool, is ironic, witty, aloof, compassionate, disgusted, and human by turns. Finally, though, the reason this book is the first choice of the judging panel is not only Spera's engagement with the big questions, but also that he asks them brilliantly and exhibits his willingness to provide answers to serious and troubling issues of the day, especially his unforgettable and essential "The Suicide Bombers" and "In a Field Outside the Town."
The book's coda, the final poems, are personal meditations on time and loss and the evocation of what is precious in an individual's life. Readers will find in this collection of poems more than one reason to keep the book close by, to reread and sit with these wonderful and compelling jewels of language.