What It Means To Be Happy

In What It Means To Be Happy, his ninth book of poetry, award-winning poet and psychologist, Gary Margolis, invites us to consider how it is we come to a meaningful happiness, with all the shades of experience in our joyful and grieving lives. If not happiness exactly, then some kind of meaningful awareness of nature, the emotional reality of living in vivid, day-to-day life. With its hopes and memories. With its pleasure and pain. In our whole and divided country. In this world of sickness and war. In the otherworldliness of our arts and sciences. In poems that are both clear and mysterious, he seeks to let language and image trace their own paths. Come to conclusions that are open and seemingly inevitable. With always the sense and feeling that each poem is speaking to a known and unknown reader. To a happiness whose meaning now is yet to be found. A next page to be written.

Advance Praise

“If anybody knows what it means to be happy it is Gary Margolis, who brings to his new collection of poems a rare combination of technical mastery, literary wit, and the wisdom born of a long career working as a psychologist. He finds in daily life and the relationships that alternately challenge and sustain him music that seems to arise from the mystery at the very heart of existence. ‘Right words come slowly/ or early,’ he explains. ‘Like snow in the middle/ of August. A shadow stepping out of the forest.’ Listen carefully. This is for your ears only.”
Christopher Merrill, author of Self-Portrait with Dogwood

“The poems in What It Means to be Happy parse a life—and it is a happy one, for the most part, marked by wise and amused looks backward as well as a deep appreciation for the present moment. With their short lines and plainspoken diction, these poems are neither willfully obscure nor self-consciously clever; they meditate on everything from lost gloves to last words, ‘Words your father never said./ Not letting his feelings rise.’ Even the titles—which include “Your Bucket List,” “In the Voting Booth,” “At the Pain Clinic,” and “Over the Holidays”—are a reminder of how much we share and what it means to be alive.”  —Sue Ellen Thompson, author of Sea Nettles: New & Selected Poems, winner of the Maryland Author Award

“No one else sounds quite like Gary Margolis, and it’s hard to imagine a writer more certain of what he’s doing. While many poets are putting retreads on worn rhetoric, Margolis has fashioned his own lean, fluent, and sure-handed idiom. The deft brush strokes of his lines underscore the power of restraint. There’s not a word wasted in this book, which is charming without being slight, unsentimental without being cold. The sensibility of these poems is unlike any other I’ve encountered.”  —George Bilgere, author of Central Air

“This book, this community of poems makes me happy, happy because it manages to include individual sorrow, the tragedy of war, the 1960’s dream of America, baseball, family, children, death, rural Vermont and whisk them all and more into a record of what it means to be human and to be what we call happy: an earned, real happiness. A book to be happy about. A good book of poems to happily live by.”  —Greg Delanty, author of No More Time, among others

“Gary Margolis is the kind of poet who calls for us, as his father did for him, ‘to rise and shine.’ He knows very well that ‘right words come . . . Like snow in the middle/of August,’ and—as true poets often demonstrate—that the best poems gracefully compare elements that don’t often seem to fit together. This is not a book that seeks to intimidate readers or make them question their own intelligence. It is, rather, one that seeks to ‘go out shouting with kindness,’ which, very admirably, it indeed does.” —Michael Blumenthal, author of Sympathetic Magic, among others

About the Author

Gary Margolis is Emeritus Executive Director of College Mental Health Services and Associate Professor of English (part-time) at Middlebury College. He was a Robert Frost and Arthur Vining Davis Fellow and has taught at the University of Tennessee, Vermont, and the Bread Loaf and Green Mountain Writers’ Conferences. His third book, Fire in the Orchard was nominated for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, as well as Raking the Winter Leaves: New and Selected Poems in 2010. His poem, “The Interview” was featured on National Public Radio’s “The Story.”  And he was filmed on the Middlebury College campus, reading his poem, “Winning the Lunar Eclipse” for Boston’s Channel 5 after the 2003 World Series. In the fall of 2021, he was Alumni Writer at Bread Loaf, in support of Middlebury undergraduates in residence on the mountain campus. For many years, he has served as the Cornwall, Vermont Town Poet. Dr. Margolis was awarded the first Sam Dietzel Award for mental health practice by the Clinical Psychology Department of Saint Michael’s College and the Counseling Service of Addison County’s Wilton W. Covey Community Award in Middlebury, Vermont. His clinical articles have appeared in the Journal of American College Health, Ladies Home Journal, and Runner’s World Magazine. He has been interviewed for his work with college students by Time Magazine, ABC, and CBS News. His memoir is Seeing the Songs: A Poet’s Journey to the Shamans in Ecuador. Recent books of poems include Time Inside and Museum of Islands: New and Selected Poems.

130 pages; Softcover
ISBN: 979-8-9876631-4-1
Trim Size: 5.5 x 8.5 
Price: $16.95 US / $22.95 CA
Publication Date: September 2023
Distributor: IPG/Chicago, Ingram.
Rights sold: All rights available.
Rights & PR: Dede Cummings, dede@greenwriterspress.com
Keywords: Nature, Poetry, Aging, Grief, COVID; Vermont; Happiness

Distributor: IPG; also available through Follett/Baker & Taylor, Ingram, and other wholesalers.
Individuals can pre-order directly from Bookshop.org, or contact your local, independent bookstore.
Booksellers, libraries, colleges/universities, gift shops, etc., can order through IPG:
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814 N. Franklin Street
Chicago, IL 60610
Order Placement: (800) 888-4741

To request an advance reader copy—digital or print—email dede@greenwriterspress.com