(University of Illinois at Springfield, USA)

ISBN: 978-1-952799-49-5



Interesting Times is Lewis’ third book of poetry.  Into a Second Century and Take Fives: Short Studies in Pentameter (also published by The University Press of the South) constitute the yield of a pleasing lyric renascence, after a nearly two decades’ lull since last crafting a line in love or anger, or even equanimity.  Yet Interesting Times is predicated on the recent crises; the text is intended to help readers, and the poet, literally come to terms with these unprecedented, tragic, yet paradoxically—in that they forced a watershed, and caused in many re-evaluation and resolve—promising circumstances.                                                       





Four centuries past, when Brightness fell from ayre,

The cause Nashe sang occasioned more despair.

And his contemporary, Donne, set down

In sequent sonnets Corona, meaning crown.

Now, too, Lord, have mercy; Donne’s sense has changed:

The virus named thus normalcy’s estranged.

As pain and peril permeate our land,

While we await a cure, help us to withstand

Uncertainty and darks of dissonance.

Becalm us to comprehend experience.


        From Thomas Nashe, Summers Last Will and Testament;


Phisick himself must fade,

All things to end are made,

The plague full swift goes bye;

I am sick, I must dye:

Lord, have mercy on us

. . . . . . . . .

Brightness falls from the ayre,

Queenes have died yong and faire,

Dust hath closde Helens eye.

I am sick, I must dye:

Lord, have mercy on us.


La Corona, John Donne’s devotional series of seven sonnets, commences and closes, “Deigne at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.”


Unsought (Insane) Asylum


To live within that man’s imagination:

For some a fate no worse than lonely death.

Synoptic of the tragic situation

Where from our peace of mind we’re left bereft.


One’s dreams must not detach themselves, wrote Stevens,

From actuality. The soul’s survival

Proves a matter of thought’s ultimate arrival

At compromise between surmise and reason.


But when physical and mental health is raped,

And by a man in office of a father,

Our faculties, suffused in rabid lather,

By double madness—his and ours—are trapped.


The prospect (pace promise) of a cure

Is trumped via delusion, marred, obscured.


Ln. 1: “We are living in Donald Trump’s imagination.” -Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post, 13 May 2020.

Ll. 5-6: “The imagination loses vitality as it ceases to adhere to what is real. [H]aving created something unreal, it adheres to it and intensifies its unreality.” -Wallace Stevens, “The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words” (1942).

Ll. 13-4: “To be at the end of fact is not to be at the beginning of the imagination but it is to be at the end of both.” -Stevens, Adagia (1955).







In Memory of Taylor, Arbery, and Floyd


And death goes on. And—other—death goes on

In Louisville, Brunswick, Minneapolis;

A lawless crew, or arrogant police:

The work of prejudice is never done.

One stripe of murderer discriminates

Unconsciously. That Covid-19 hates

No one casts crimes inhuman in relief.

The causes of these deaths rub salt in grief.

“Vaccine” for such? Already we know better,

                  And ought not need to slogan Black Lives Matter.
















One imagines work-crews on that holiday:

Uprooting signs and scraping marks from floors;

Removing posted notices from doors

That warn more than solicitors away.


From bandboxes in every city square

And rural green across the restless nation

A bureaucrat recites a proclamation.

No one hears, though all raise raucous cheer.


They’re popping corks and pouring into bars.

Children rejoice that recess is over!

For cancelled prom, compensatory dance,

And older lovers mask-less under stars.


And who’s to say there may not be a chance

                  That souls are smiling under beds of clover?






Memo from Mr. Tyson

(cc Your Governor*)


You must stay open that we might eat meat.

Blood on the floor, galoshes on your feet.

If you should die from processing ground round,

You’re but another side sold by the pound.

A bit much, don’t you think, that we should care

About the covid rampant in your sphere

Of operation? Pal, you’ve still a job.

Chances are the ordinary slob

Who buys our packaged beef is unemployed—

A fate that you can mindlessly avoid

By shutting up (in one way or another.

Don’t trouble me to ask, Who is my brother?)

Just face the fact that a pay-check assuages,

And beg the question of slogging for death’s wages.


*Not our governor, the Hon. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, who shines as a beacon of leadership and reason.



(7 May)


Nativity shared with Tchaikovsky and with Brahms

Marks likewise when the Lusitania sank.

Appropriate conjunction—music calms,

Though all’s untoward, abysmal, cold, and dank.


This season, when ore’s overwhelmed by dross,

And fortnights toll unfathomable loss,

An eve of merry-making seems obscene

Until discovery of a vaccine.


Birthdays at my age haunt in any case:

                 Suffice I pray for mercy and for grace.







ETHAN LEWIS, Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Illinois-Springfield, has authored eight previous books: with Robert Kuhn McGregor, an Edgar Allan Poe Award-winning monograph on Dorothy L. Sayers, Conundrums for the Long Weekend (Kent State UP 2000); and, published by Cambridge Scholars Press, Modernist Image (2010), Reflexive Poetics (2012), The Shakespeare Project and Ensuing Essays (2015), Literary Nuances: Millions of Strange Shadows (2018), Literary Essays: On Explicable Splendours (2020), Modern Sonneteers, Hilary Mantel, and Critical Letters: A Triptych (2021), and Essays and Pensées on Milton and Camus (forthcoming).  His work has appeared in several venues—including, on multiple occasions, Paideuma, Spring (journals of the Ezra Pound and e.e.cummings Societies, respectively), Papers of the International Symbolist Conference, South Dakota Review, and University of Mississippi Studies in English.  His chapter on “Imagism” is compassed in The Cambridge Companion to Ezra Pound




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