Sascha Feinstein has made a career of being a master of his craft.
As a professor of English at Lycoming College, he and novelist G.W. Hawkes, direct the creative writing program at Lycoming College.
Feinstein teaches all of the upper level poetry workshops and several literature courses.
He also teaches in a master's of fine arts program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
On First Friday, Feinstein will sign copies of his most recent accomplishment, a book of poetry titled, "Ajanta's Ledge," his second full-length collection of poetry, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Otto Book Store, 107 W. Fourth St.
"Ajanta's Ledge," the title poem, was inspired by a trip he and his wife took to the Ajanta caves in India to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary.
"I wanted to pay homage to those carvings and paintings, not, of course, as a travel guide, but as someone from the United States enraptured by ancient art and tradition," Feinstein said. "The East most certainly is not the West, and yet throughout history, fascinating encounters and crossovers exist. Some are beautiful, some are tragic. That simultaneous dichotomy and fusion interested me as a poet. Unqualified love for my wife brought the passion."
Although Feinstein has many titles - poet, editor, teacher, essayist - he identifies most with being a poet.
"Poetry and creative nonfiction exercise the mind and spirit in related ways. In either art form, one must be concerned with motion, theme and so on. But there are fundamental differences too, not just in line length. In my essays, I shape and organize narratives, usually guided by metaphor, but I work exclusively with the truth. In poetry, on the other hand, I'm governed by lines and stanzas and I'm not constrained by nonfiction," he said.
Feinstein can remember his first encounter with modern poetry, a poem called, "Paterson" by William Carlos Williams.
"I was mesmerized by his use of space, astonished that printed language didn't have to begin at the left margin and by his honest expression," he said. "Up until then, I had 'learned' poems; they were assignments. But the animated freedom of William's verse spoke to the vitality of my adolescence. I'm forever indebted, and that awareness guides me as a teacher."
Another one of his passions, jazz music, is very apparent in his writings, including "Ajanta's Ledge." The collection includes a poem called, "Everything Happens to Me," which is a sonnet series of 10.
"They are all dramatic monologues spoken by famous alto saxophonists in that year. This poem too, has something of an international feel and takes on some of the hard history from that time, such as the assassination of Malcolm X. In keeping with the spirit of jazz, I wanted to present a variety of unique voices that were nevertheless united in crucial ways," Feinstein said.
Feinstein has 10 publications to date, including a memoir titled, "Black Pearls," which Feinstein said came from memories he thought he had discarded.
" 'Black Pearls' came as an unexpected gift: memories that I had assumed were gone, many about my mother's battle with cancer, returned with sudden clarity. Almost simultaneously, I realized that nurturing, foundational memories braided themselves with tragedy. That's when I knew the essays were worth making," he said.
As with any accomplished writer, the road to publication was a long one for Feinstein.
"My first poetry collection, like most, had to win a national contest for publication. I came extremely close a few times, and then Hayden Carruth, an icon in the field, selected 'Misterioso' from over 1,100 entries. That remains one of the greatest honors of my life, but I'd be the first person to admit that winning any poetry contest requires plenty of luck."
"Ajanta's Ledge" will be available at Otto Bookstore, Lycoming College bookstore and Amazon.com.
For more information about Sascha Feinstein and his other publications, visit www.saschafeinstein.com.