Friday, July 15, 2011

Town for the Trees

I've been reading Town for the Trees, poems by Justin Evans, with a gorgeous photograph of his own--trees in a graveyard--as the cover art. It's a lovely book, primarily "poems of place," as they say, mainly Springville, Utah, where the poet grew up, but also Nevada, where he lives now.

I like the talking quality of these poems, as if the poem's voice is speaking directly to me, straight on, trusting me with his observations, interpretations, evaluations, and, yes, personal history. He names the girls of his past--Emily Jensen, drowned. Kathy Greene, Cindy Peterson.

Here's the opening stanza of the opening poem, "In Twilight":

I will go, walking down the dark canyon road
softened beneath a malleable sun.  Once more,
one final descent into the valley of my home.

I hear other voices, other men, poets, who have spoken to me this straightforwardly, in light or somber, measured tones.  William Butler Yeats--"I will arise and go now..."  Robert Frost, William Stafford.

Here's a favorite stanza from a favorite poem, "Dawn Psalm, Salt Flats":

A man might walk into the morning
a thousand times and still not see
this same color or know the pleasure
of learning its name.

These poems of place also capture the community truths, as in "Singing Back the River"--"With farmers / it's either too much rain or not enough"--so the diction of the book as a whole can easily sustain the ready-phrase alongside a more personal lyricism--"The past is a thief / escaping on the wings of blackbirds" (from "Nevada Wildlife.")

You can see more samples and excerpts at Justin Evans's page at Foothills Publishing and at his blog, One Man's Trash. Or read other readers' reactions in these blog posts by Sandy Longhorn and Kristin Berkey-Abbott. And Evans edits an online journal of poetry and place, Hobble Creek Review.

If you really, really love towns, I have more for you! Here's a mini-review at Fiddler Crab (the "featured short review" on righthand side of page) of Eros Among the Americans, by Christopher Cessac, a fun romp through American towns with great names like Eros, Romance, and Amor.

Yes, it's a woolly mammoth, in a painting titled Lincoln, Illinois--10 acres per head by Michael Roch, and I stuck my arm up inside the ancient tusk of a woolly mammoth discovered in a creek in Lincoln, Illinois! Really! A couple years ago. (My life is hard to explain.)

You can buy this book and read samples on Cessac's page at Main Street Rag!


Maureen said...

Enjoyed this and your post at Fiddler Crab. Will keep these poets in mind when I save up some more money to hit Amazon again.

Have a great weekend.

Kathleen said...

Thanks, Maureen, and you have a good weekend, too. Whew, don't I know it about saving up for books!

Nancy Devine said...

i've been meaning to get justin's book and haven't gotten around to it. having read your post, i must act and order.

Kathleen said...

So glad to hear that, Nancy!