Book Review 'Celebrate Life: Viva La Vida' Wisdom from a life well lived

BRATTLEBORO — After more than five years in the making, "Celebrate Life: Viva La Vida" by Tom Namaya, is ready for public consumption. With a premier presentation at Kellogg Hubbard Library in Montpelier last month, the book is now available through the publisher Vermont Art Poetry Press by request. A compilation of poems, essays and short stories, it celebrates a life well lived with reminders to cherish the small moments. His poems offer up advice to "ask for what you want in life" and to follow that path, something not always easy to do in a world where money is necessary to survive and work is not always an artistic outlet.

Dedicated to his friend and mentor artist Ross Trentacosti, Namaya credits him with learning how to have fun while maintaining his hard-work ethic that he learned from his father.

From his home at Blue Heron Pond in Brattleboro, Namaya reflects on some of his life's memorable moments such as being conned by his three-year-old niece, or finding the good in bad situations like naming the rains of Irene "good" as they washed away the figurative fences between neighbors, and putting a privileged life in perspective when compared to life in third-world countries. His goal is to make us question "do we follow our heart, do we take a hold of our own life?" that leaves the reader yearning a bit to do just that and shake the shackles of what is expected of us.

He pulls quotes from Winston Churchill, Plato, Shakespeare, the Dali Llama and others to help support his philosophies on life in his heartfelt poetry about relationship, love, and forgiveness, in amusing essays and mesmerizing short stories that embrace the value of the land, voice his reactions to tragic events, and the power of miracles. Some make you giggle, others make you feel regret, but they all make you think, and they have a common thread of prodding the reader to take the time to notice the simple things — told with subtle humor and vivid imagery. For example one can feel the winter air in his poem:

Bourbon Snowflakes

Cold night.

Step outside

with a glass of


on the porch.


fall and drift,

a few land in

the glass —

better than

ice and

the dregs


Air warms

the bourbon.

Slowly it


to heaven.



Or get a giggle with the short essay Flying Captain: Look Before You Leap?:

While working in the Intensive Care Unit at a NYC hospital, I met the captain of a sixty-foot sail boat who had just completed a solo trip from the south of France to New York City.

The day before, he was sleeping in his fifth floor apartment in New York City, when, in the middle of the night, the air conditioner began to rattle. He got up, half-asleep, and adjusted the air conditioner. With one hand, he lifted the window up, causing the AC to tumble downwards. He reached out and grabbed it. The AC fell out of the window with him trailing behind, landing five stories below. He was found on the sidewalk lying on top of the shattered machine. When he woke up in the intensive care unit, with a fractured hip and two fractured shoulders, he looked up at the faces of his wife and surgeon and asked, "How is the air conditioner?"

The wife, smiling and then crying said, "You fared better than it did."

Namaya said, "The fun part of writing this book was I wrote it the way I wanted to write it, having the freedom to include short stories because my verboseness has limits. It speaks to people as a common journey, even people who may not normally enjoy poetry will enjoy this." It took him a bit to get the poetry to be this straight forward, saying what was on his mind. He said, "It's about striking a balance between poetry that is well written and that speaks to the heart as well as the mind, but it has to have fun — about quirky things that have fun."

As a storyteller, humorist, performance poet, musician, and self-proclaimed rabble-rouser, Namaya said he loves performing instead of just reading a written piece because he can see the reaction of the audience, to find that balance between literary and performance. For this publication, it was about keeping it fun — not too serious.

Namaya said his wife, Zoe Kopp, claims "she was sometimes embarrassed by the stories of her, but was my cheerleader throughout the long process." However, Kopp said, "I like how it triggers memories of your own life, it is not so much a memoir."

"Celebrate Life: Viva La Vida" is a collection of poems and stories that come from the heart of this poet. These are his true experiences, celebrating life despite all of the madness. He takes on "seize the day" fully. It adds to his list of literary accomplishments including these books of poetry and stories: "Eros to Godhead," "God Sex.Politics," "Journal of the Plague: Living and working with AIDS," and a novella "Thirst," a poem of peace "One Hundred Flowers" that has been translated into over 100 languages, and his last book of poems "Vermont My Home on Blue Heron Pond."

Ultimately the question is are you having fun? Namaya asks, "What is your truest passion in life." For more information email

Cicely M. Eastman may be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 261


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