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Posted June 21, 2009
Usher: The Best and Almost-Best of B.H. Fairchild
B.H. Fairchild's impressive previous collections The Art of the Lathe and Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest mined with deft craftsmanship and elegiac intensity the characters peopling the stark outer but rich inner landscapes of his rural Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma youth. Precision tooling in his father's machine shop and quiet lives of skilled men he perceptively observed created subjects of rare beauty -expressed in pastoral, somber tone and quirky, surprising imagery. His newest book, Usher, is most compelling when it continues in that same vein, but seems weaker and less convincing as the poet shifts his gaze to horizons less personal and more cerebral. In three of the five sections, Fairchild develops what might be called "realistic imaginings,": postcards Hart Crane might have written from Havana the day before he leaped into the Gulf of Mexico; prose-poem journals of Roy Eldridge Garcia, who appears in earlier Fairchild books; ironic monologue of Frieda Pushnik, performer in a traveling circus freak show; first-person musings from philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the barber from Bertrand Russell's paradox (about who shaves the shaver). Fairchild's dilemma is how to let other voices speak inside his poems without all sounding like the poet-narrator we trust from previous work. Faulkner's least successful experiment was A Fable, when he left the familiar environs of Yoknapatawpha County for France, or the same with Steinbeck when he tried to retell the Arthurian legends in his flat, uncluttered style. Fairchild is superlatively at home, however, in the final two sections, "The Beauty of Abandoned Towns" and "Desire." Here is vintage Fairchild: "And here they come again, 4 a.m./ gaggle of shadows, thick wallow/ of groans, sudden bleak wailings/ blown like an explosion of grackles/ from my small-life's basement, Bosch-like/ in their fury, their perverse pink rage, and ending always in a great white flash. . . and, "And this is visionary Kansas: the last believers/ plunged back into a night where the angels/ of a Lutheran engineer rise above Wal-Mart/ and the corporate fields of chemicals and wheat." Literary biographer Paul Mariani described Fairchild's "ventriloquial feats of language," and Poems Out Loud characterized Usher as "verbal cinema." Applaud Fairchild for new explorations, but risking the authenticity of his poetic voice as found in the stunning, memorable "Beauty," "The Blue Buick," "Body and Soul," and so many other poems from earlier books, makes this reviewer hope he doesn't wander too far from home.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 30, 2009
USHER IS BREATHTAKING
USHERWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
$24.95 - Hardback
Reviewer: Annie Slessman
As I started my read of USHER by B.H. Fairchild I had no expectations. I had not read his previous works nor did I know his reputation as a poet. After reading The Gray Man and Frieda Pushnik - I was hooked.
B.H. Fairchild uses prose like David used the slingshot - he takes simple language and packs a real punch. As I read The Deer, I had to remind myself to breathe. The images he provokes are breathtaking and linger in the mind long after finishing the work.
In the poem entitled Cendrars, Fairchild describes phantom pain in a missing limb, "it is like memory, the memory that will not quite go away, that it is in effect the body's memory, but more, that it is like poetry, the phantom life: not there in any material way, yet intensely there to the reader, the amputee who has lost some nameless yet essential limb of existence, probably on the long, dark path out of childhood. Teary-eyed with excitement, the reader can say of the poem, yes, this is life, or better, this is life within life, but try to convince the passerby, the onlooker, who will simply observe the empty sleeve flapping in the wind and shake his head sadly."
If you are a lover of poetry, you will want to add this work to your library. If you do not as yet appreciate the art of poetry, this would be the book of poetry that would mold your love of poetry.
Posted August 30, 2009
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