Friday, October 31, 2008

book review Wind River by Tom Morrisey

Title: Wind River
Author:
Tom Morrisey
Publisher: Bethany House, July 2008, paperback, 352 pages
Genre: Christian fiction, Adventure, Outdoors
ISBN-10:
0764203479
ISBN-13: 978-0764203473



Tyler Perkins returns from the war in Iraq weighed down by what has happened to him. To his wife Angie he seems like a different man. So when Ty’s 86-year-old friend Soren Andeman drops strong hints that he’d like Ty to take him on one last hike to Clear Lake in their beloved Wyoming mountains, Angie urges him to go.

Right from the start this sentimental fishing trip — the story author Tom Morrisey tells in Wind River — has its complications. Why does Ty remove his wedding band before entering the lodge where his old flame still works? How will Soren hike all the way up to Clear Lake with his gimpy hip and fragile heart? The men do eventually get there but a few days later even tinder dry conditions and word of a roaming bear don’t deter Soren from setting out on the even more challenging hike to Cirque Lake. Why is it so important to him? Ty discovers there are lessons for him too in the events that haunt the place.

The Wyoming mountain setting is one of the things that makes this story special. Morrisey has obviously hiked and fished in these places. His respect for nature and love of spending time in it is contagious. Throughout we feel as if we’re part of the action – fly-fishing, cooking on open fires, eating fresh-caught trout, sleeping under the lightning-washed sky, and hiking the high ridges.

The two main characters Ty and Soren come alive in Morrisey’s hands. Ty, seen first in his Stafford Virginia home then later in the mountains, seems authentic in both places. We can’t help but admire his loyalty and like him for the way he respects and takes care of his old friend. From our first meeting with Soren we are struck by his determination and stoicism in the face of pain. Later, when he tells a large chunk of his story in first person, his salt-of-the-earth personality becomes even more lifelike.

Morrisey’s writing style brings to mind realist paintings. His descriptions of nature are detailed and lyrical. His way of recounting the minutiae of the most mundane tasks puts the reader in the middle of the action. Note, for example, with how much particularity he describes the simple and familiar action of lighting a camp stove:

Soren put his thumb over the air hold and began pumping up the stove, building pressure in the fuel reservoir. He opened the gas orifice and turned the little striker in the burner bowl. Yellow flames danced up and Soren adjusted the burner, bringing it down to a ring of small blue flames. In seconds the stove began to hiss as the heat of the burner warmed the generator tube.
But the story turns out to be about more than nature’s grandeur and the joys and challenges men face when they interact with it. As Ty and Soren spend time together they confide secrets and learn about each other, themselves, friendship, loyalty, forgiveness, facing the past and the importance of truth. Thus Wind River becomes the story of a double exploit. Not only is it an outdoor adventure of a young man and his old friend revisiting their favorite Wyoming mountain fishing spot (fly fishers will find Morrisey an especially kindred spirit), but it’s also a spiritual adventure about finding the courage to face the past and live truthfully and responsibly in the present. Whichever side of the story you’re after, Wind River won’t disappoint.

Friday Poem - Humility

American Life in Poetry: Column 188

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

I really like this poem by Dick Allen, partially for the way he so easily draws us in, with his easygoing, conversational style, but also for noticing what he has noticed, the overlooked accompanist there on the stage, in the shadow of the singer.



The Accompanist

I've always worried about you--the man or woman
at the piano bench,
night after night receiving only such applause
as the singer allows: a warm hand please,
for my accompanist. At concerts,
as I watch your fingers on the keys,
and how swiftly, how excellently
you turn sheet music pages,
track the singer's notes, cover the singer's flaws,
I worry about whole lifetimes,
most lifetimes
lived in the shadows of reflected fame;
but then the singer's voice dies
and there are just your last piano notes,
not resentful at all,
carrying us to the end, into those heartfelt cheers
that spring up in little patches from a thrilled audience
like sudden wildflowers bobbing in a rain
of steady clapping. And I'm on my feet, also,
clapping and cheering for the singer, yes,
but, I think, partially likewise for you
half-turned toward us, balanced on your black bench,
modest, utterly well-rehearsed,
still playing the part you've made yours.

- Dick Allen

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by Dick Allen, whose most recent book of poetry is "Present Vanishing," Sarabande Books, 2008. Poem reprinted from "North Dakota Quarterly," Vol. 74, no. 3, Summer 2007, by permission of Dick Allen. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Poem - Ghosties

American Life in Poetry: Column 187

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

I thought that we'd celebrate Halloween with an appropriate poem, and Iowa poet Dan Lechay's seems just right. The drifting veils of rhyme and meter disclose a ghost, or is it a ghost?





Ghost Villanelle

We never saw the ghost, though he was there--
we knew from the raindrops tapping on the eaves.
We never saw him, and we didn't care.

Each day, new sunshine tumbled through the air;
evenings, the moonlight rustled in dark leaves.
We never saw the ghost, though: he was there,

if ever, when the wind tousled our hair
and prickled goosebumps up and down thin sleeves;
we never saw him. And we didn't care

to step outside our room at night, or dare
click off the nightlight: call it fear of thieves.
We never saw the ghost, though he was there

in sunlit dustmotes drifting anywhere,
in light-and-shadow, such as the moon weaves.
We never saw him, though, and didn't care,

until at last we saw him everywhere.
We told nobody. Everyone believes
we never saw the ghost (if he was there),
we never saw him and we didn't care.

- Dan Lechay

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2003 by Dan Lechay. Reprinted from "The Quarry," Ohio University Press, 2003, by permission of Dan Lechay. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Poem - Daughter

Every child can be seen as a miracle, and here Minnesota poet James Lenfestey captures the beautiful mystery of a daughter.




Daughter

A daughter is not a passing cloud, but permanent,
holding earth and sky together with her shadow.
She sleeps upstairs like mystery in a story,
blowing leaves down the stairs, then cold air, then warm.
We who at sixty should know everything, know nothing.
We become dull and disoriented by uncertain weather.
We kneel, palms together, before this blossoming altar.

- James Lenfestey


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by James P. Lenfestey from his most recent book of poetry, "A Cartload of Scrolls," Holy Cow! Press, 2007. Reprinted by permission of the author. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Poem - Veterans

American Life in Poetry: Column 185

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

When I was a boy, there were still a few veterans of the Spanish American War, and more of The Great War, or World War I, and now all those have died and those who served in World War II are passing from us, too. Robert Hedin, a Minnesota poet, has written a fine poem about these people.


The Old Liberators

Of all the people in the mornings at the mall,
it's the old liberators I like best,
those veterans of the Bulge, Anzio, or Monte Cassino
I see lost in Automotive or back in Home Repair,
bored among the paints and power tools.
Or the really old ones, the ones who are going fast,
who keep dozing off in the little orchards
of shade under the distant skylights.
All around, from one bright rack to another,
their wives stride big as generals,
their handbags bulging like ripe fruit.
They are almost all gone now,
and with them they are taking the flak
and fire storms, the names of the old bombing runs.
Each day a little more of their memory goes out,
darkens the way a house darkens,
its rooms quietly filling with evening,
until nothing but the wind lifts the lace curtains,
the wind bearing through the empty rooms
the rich far off scent of gardens
where just now, this morning,
light is falling on the wild philodendrons.

- Robert Hedin

Photos: "World Wars" (South and West Walls, 3203 32nd St. Vernon, BC)
Mural artist: Michelle Loughery, 2001

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 1999 by Robert Hedin. Reprinted from "The Old Liberators: New and Selected Poems and Translations," Holy Cow! Press, 1999, by permission of Robert Hedin. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday Poem - Work

American Life in Poetry: Column 184

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

I hope it's not just a guy thing, a delight in the trappings of work. I love this poem by John Maloney, of Massachusetts, which gives us a close look behind the windshields of all those pickup trucks we see heading home from work.



After Work

They're heading home with their lights on, dust and wood glue,
yellow dome lights on their metallic long beds: 250s, 2500s--
as much overtime as you want, deadline, dotted line, dazed
through the last few hours, dried primer on their knuckles,
sawdust calf-high on their jeans, scraped boots, the rough
plumbing and electric in, way ahead of the game except for
the check, such a clutter of cans and iced-tea bottles, napkins,
coffee cups, paper plates on the front seat floor with cords
and saws, tired above the eyes, back of the beyond, thirsty.
There's a parade of them through the two-lane highways,
proudest on their way home, the first turn out of the jobsite,
the first song with the belt off, pure breath of being alone
for now, for now the insight of a full and answerable man.
No one can take away the contentment of the first few miles
and they know they can't describe it, the black and purple sky.

- John Maloney


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by John Maloney, whose most recent book of poetry is "Proposal," Zoland Books, 1999. Poem reprinted from AGNI online, 2/2007, by permission of John Maloney. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Updates

Well, I haven't been here in a while. I have a good reason - holidays, and then catching up! But that's all behind me now, and it's time to get back on the poetry bus and move on.

So, before we get to the main Friday course of "American Life in Poetry" here's an announcement - another poetry contest.

This one is for Twitter Poetry.

Don't know what Twitter Poetry is? It's an extremely short poem - 140 characters or less (that's characters, i.e. each letter, space and mark of punctuation counts as a character. Your word processing program probably counts them.)

Anyway, Utmost has a Twitter Poetry Contest happening. Find out all about it here.


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For Canadian Poets the current contest is for poems on the theme of "Where is God"

Deadline - October 31st.

Check it out!

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The latest "Poet's Classroom" column came online yesterday.

Read "Research: The Dietary Supplement Your Poems Can't Do Without".