These are quietly powerful, quietly elegant poems, composed in a plain style for the Great Plains, but one no less deep for that perceived plainness.
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It is no good to grow up hating the rich. The cottonwood that sheltered the henhouse is a stump now, and the hackberries on the north were leveled years ago. The silo looms over the barn, whose huge door swallowed daylight, where a child could enter his own death. What became of the boy with nine fingers? The midwife from Yellow Horse who raised geese? Several of the poems in Local Knowledge like this one , which he reprints in The Art of the Lathe prefigure stylistic developments that come to fruition in his later books.
These utterances move at rabbit-speed, even at a loss for punctuation at times, are compelled down the page. The poems written in this mode also feel warmer, since the openness of this style allows for more intimate exchanges with the reader, inviting our participation in the off-hand twitches of irony and self-deprecation. Sentences drive this poem more than individual lines, and the sentences are sprawling, yet gorgeously controlled, almost obsessive in their desire to speed down the page and to contain, along the way, every last thought in their constricting syntax.
We are at the Bargello in Florence, and she says what are you thinking? But the poem is astounding for the uncertainty and casualness of its observations, the fluid unreeling of the different narratives, and especially for its overall goofiness. They were discussing beauty and tossing around allusions to Plato and Aristotle and someone named Pater, and they might be homosexuals.
Not a beautiful thing, that. The government. Not beautiful, though a man would not use that word. Attempting to discern what constitutes the un-beautiful, not to mention the beautiful, pushes the speaker out to the far edge of the prescribed boundaries of Great Plains intellectual and masculine experience.
The Art of the Lathe contains a number of poems that are nearly as ambitious and almost as good. I knew him. He ran the lathe next to mine. Perfectionist, a madman, even on overtime Saturday night. Hum of the crowd floating from the ball park, shouts, slamming doors from the bar down the street, he would lean into the lathe and make a little song with the honing cloth, rubbing the edges, smiling like a man asleep, dreaming. A short guy, but fearless. We are meant to remember that John Keats—a meticulous maker if there ever was one—distinguished himself in the first half of his life by getting into brawls.
So Fairchild revives Keats the fastidious young roughneck here and grafts it upon Keats the perishable maker of fine-boned poems. Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest is a post-Romantic project, then, one that owes obvious debts to the greatest poet of memory—Wordsworth—not to mention the prose vaults of Marcel Proust.enter
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The opening poem in the book begins:. In effect, the prepositions work to re-position the child in that lost world. The first two sections of the book consist primarily of poems in this mode, though almost none of them furrow their brows as much as this title poem, which establishes the ambition of all the poems in the book, but does not set its dominant tone.
In fact, levity is much more abundant than profundity throughout Early Occult Memory Systems and the poems are even, on occasion, allowed to rhyme:. We remain, after all, in the landscape of Fairchild, where most encounters bring us face to face with the complications of social class, redneck violence, and American dread. I am so young that I am still in love with Battle Creek, Michigan: decoder rings, submarines powered by baking soda, whistles that only dogs can hear. Actually, not even them.
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Nobody can hear them. I have never heard of such a thing.
A man wanting to shoot his wife. His wife. I am standing in the center of the room barefoot on the cold linoleum, and a woman is crying and being held and soothed by my mother. Outside, through the open door my father is holding a shotgun, and his shadow envelops Mr.
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Hill, who bows his head and sobs into his hands. A line of shadows seems to be moving across our white fence: hunched-over soldiers on a death march, or kindly old ladies in flower hats lugging grocery bags. The scene is recollected with such detachment it becomes a kind of tableau vivant in Cold War silhouette, one that could melt easily into melodrama, except Fairchild is wise enough to write beyond the limited domestic scene. In the kitchen now Mrs. Hill is playing gin rummy with my mother and laughing in those long shrieks that women have that make you think they are dying.
I walk into the front yard where moonlight Drips from the fenders of our Pontiac Chieftain. I take out my dog whistle. Nothing moves. No one can hear it. Dogs are asleep all over town.
The poem recounts a certain rite of passage that compels boys to buy junk autos, pile into them, get plastered, and then attempt to flip them at high speed off the shoulder of a pre-appointed dirt road in the middle of a god-forsaken nowhere:. Rumbling over caliche with a busted muffler radio blasting Buddy Holly over Baptist wheat fields, Travis screaming out Prepare ye the way of the Lord at jackrabbits skittering beneath our headlights, The Messiah coming to Kansas in a flat-head Ford with bad plates, the whole high plains holding its breath, night is fast upon us, lo, in these the days of our youth, and we were hell to pay, or thought we were.
The poem pulls punches right out of American Graffiti , but is bizarrely enriched with mock-Biblical diction and high-pitched lectern exaggerations. Since the poem includes chicken hawks, piss, and chew spit it must if it is to remain honest to its characters and is noisy with the frenzied, crackling vinyl bounce of its rock and roll soundtrack, it has plenty of room to ascend once the Ford has been crashed and the passengers are left to pull themselves from the wreckage, on the verge of conversion:.
Usher B H Fairchild Inbunden. The Testaments Margaret Atwood Inbunden. Inbunden Engelska, Spara som favorit. Skickas inom vardagar. Gathering works from five of B. Fairchild's previous volumes stretching over thirty years, and adding twenty-six brilliant new poems, The Blue Buick showcases the career of a poet who represents "the American voice at its best: confident and conflicted, celebratory and melancholic" New York Times.
Fairchild's poetry covers a wide range, both geographically and intellectually, though it finds its center in the rural Midwest: in oilfields and dying small towns, in taverns, baseball fields, one-screen movie theaters, and skies "vast, mysterious, and bored. That coming into being still going on.
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From "The Blue Buick:" A boy standing on a rig deck looks across the plains. A woman walks from a trailer to watch the setting sun.
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