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"'All that is beautiful is passing,' reflects Jim Gustafson in his first full-length collection, Unassisted Living. Yet to call these poems elegies, or to assert that they look only backwards, is to sell them short. 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. That voice, gentle and assertive both, marks the arrival of a fully formed and mature poet."

~ Steve Kistulentz, The Luckless and Little Black Daydream

Unassisted Living

  • "Who says aging gracefully is a virtue? What about aging honestly? Or, put another way: 'Bliss is a tired word, / hisses like a snake.' Or, put another way: 'All I can think about is the abundance / of spoons.' In Unassisted Living, Jim Gustafson traces the decades’ grasp on our heart and bodies, in landscapes ranging from Florida’s oaks, to New York’s sidewalks, to Lisbon’s hills. 'I’ve never had an epiphany,' one speaker admits, 'though I remember / the first time I felt small.' Such modesties are belied by the collection's wry humor and frank insight, and enriched by the poet’s formal curiosity. Flashbacks return us to drinking days and, further back, glimpses of childhood. But present realities always loom, as in the poignant 'Empty Air,' in which a boy’s pawing for chocolates in his mother’s Russell Stover box becomes an elegy for the future: 'He reshaped the foil around the air / returned it to rest in its dark brown paper nest.' In the tradition of poets I admire, Gustafson is distinguished by his discerning eye and his journeying spirit."

    ~ Sandra Beasley, 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, Awaiting Your Impossibilities