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In 2017, poet Gary Lawless and his wife Beth Leonard traveled to Venice, Italy. As he made his way around the city, he had questions: Where did the stones that created this city in a lagoon come from? Who brought them out of the earth? “I was interested in the building stones, the marble, the salt, the sand for glassmakers on Murano, pigments for painters (Venetian red, ultramarine), even the particulate produced by the cruise ships…”


Drawing on history, philosophy, mineralogy, alchemy, and hagiography, Lawless takes us on a journey to discover the answers to his questions, and in the process creates a poetical work that is marvelous, lucid and stunningly new. In telling the story of the stones of Venice, he offers us a treasure trove of other stories, stories of anarchists, stonemasons and saints, and he shares the story of his own journey from the quarries of Prospect, Maine, to the stone streets and churches of Venice, the islands of Greece, the mountains of Turkey and the forests of Lithuania, to return at last to the stones and waters of Maine, his home state.


“Informative and highly civilized, but also wild and deep,” is the way poet and environmentalist Gary Snyder describes How the Stones Came to Venice. That blend of the civilized and the wild is only one of the many surprises in this surprising and extraordinary book. Illustrated with photographs by Beth Leonard and others, and with art work from the city of Venice, How the Stones Came to Venice is a unique and important work by a beloved Maine poet.


Gary Lawless has published 18 collections of poetry in the United States and five in Italy. He holds an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from the University of Southern Maine. He and his wife, Beth Leonard, own Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick, Maine. They live at Chimney Farm, in Nobleboro with their cat and two donkeys.

72 pages, with photographs by Beth Leonard and others

How the Stones came to Venice

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