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Poet William Greenfield portrays the gritty realties of working class family life in a new collection informed by his work in child welfare.
Rarely has the abased adage to “write what you know” produced such profound results as these poems from William Greenfield, for what he knows from personal experience and from years as a family services worker has afforded him insights into a world rarely depicted in verse, a working-class world of railbirds and Newports, of “fifties peeled from a working man’s wad,” but mostly of poverty, mental illness, and substance abuse, a world of diminishing possibilities and of days getting shorter. Asked by a colleague if he cares about his clients, “I / said I don’t know how to make myself do that.” But these poems say otherwise, as his clear-eyed realist’s compassion is on display throughout. So is his proficiency with language (“winter’s museum of wonders”) and observation (“the earth is a publicly owned commodity / fractured into billions of individual shares”). He even pulls off a poem about “The First Time You Fall in Love” and makes us experience it anew. And he offers the reassurance that even in the face of such stark realities, it’s okay “that the world gets smaller / everyday. / There is no room left / for suicide bombers, / federal deficits, / troubled souls.” “So we shrink / down, our world a snow globe. Shaken, / it’s nothing but a swirl of flakes. Wound up, / we hear nothing but a twinkle / of mirth.”
Poetry. Family & Relationships.
“Bill Greenfield’s THE EVER SHRINKING UNIVERSE is hardly that! His poetry is filled with far-ranging and expansive portraits of family, childhood friends, and clients drawn from his many years in the fields of public service and child welfare in Westchester and Sullivan Counties, New York. Greenfield is at his best in making surprising, often synesthetic, connections between the gritty concrete world of rural poverty with loftier abstractions as he has us drink from our own 'stein of sanctimony,' or as he savors 'the morning sun and the bouquet of violins playing in the folds you left behind.' Throughout Greenfield navigates through his mostly somber subject matter with a matured perspective, freely admitting impediment, while also capturing those moments of incendiary music with arsonist desire. He balances casting a Yeatsian 'cold eye' with tenderness, wonder, and play. Insights such as 'For every patch of chafed skin there is an apple muffin' makes for rewarding reading and leaves us in marveled awe.”
—Sharon Kennedy-Nolle, Sullivan County Poet Laureate, 2022-2024, author of Black Wick: Selected Elegies
William A. Greenfield works part-time for a child welfare agency in the Catskill mountains. He assists families in crisis and his writing often reflects how the world is seen through the eyes of these families. He is the author of three previous books of poetry: Momma's Boy Gone Bad (Finishing Line Press, 2017), I Should Have Asked the Blind Girl to Dance (Flutter Press, 2019), and The Circadian Fallacy (Kelsay Books, 2020). His poems have also appeared in dozens of journals, including The Westchester Review, The American Journal of Poetry and many others. He lives in Liberty, New York with his wife, son, and a dog, always a dog.