"Night And Day" a retrospective book of poetry by former National Book Award Nominee, P. J. Laska, takes the reader through a body of work which has been accumulating over the past forty or fifty years by one of the finest poets in America and particularly among Appalachian poets. P. J. Laska has traveled a life which took him from being the Polish-American Catholic son of a West Virginia coal miner to altar boy to Buddhist philosopher and from Morgantown, West Virginia, to the University of Arizona to the Southern Appalachian Circuit of Antioch College to Cleveland, Ohio, to a brief retirement in Mexico and back to Arizona. Such a varied experience deserves to be documented and that is exactly what Laska has done on nearly a daily basis since he first learned to read and write in the coal fields of Northern West Virginia.
"Night And Day" reprises many of Laska's best poems from several works over the years while also introducing several newer pieces which many readers have not seen. It opens with "The Day The Eighties Began" and sets an immediate tone of social activism and outspoken opposition to wrongdoing. Then as we read on we find poems like "Uncle Frank's Death" which is a fine comment about family and love in the hills of Appalachia. The book examines Appalachian issues such as strip mining, love of place, outside ownership and corporate greed, and devotion to family. It gives the reader who has never met Laska's work a wonderful window into the soul of a poet who has lived a life of action and activism in a beautiful but often stormy land. It serves to create a picture frame around a portrait of a life lived at the cutting edge of social action in the 20th century.
Writer's Note: I had published this post several months ago on a "Page Important Enough To Stand Alone" and it never seemed to get read as much as I think P. J. Laska's work deserves. So here it is where you cannot miss it. But the book, read it, pass it on. Roger