The Country I Remember

David Mason, Author
David Mason, Author Story Line Press $12 (0p) ISBN 978-1-885266-23-1
Hardcover - 978-1-885266-20-0
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Mason's second collection (after The Buried Houses) features the title poem, which won the The Poetry Society of America's DiCastagnola Award. This 1300-line family and national saga is narrative poetry at its best. Told in the distinct voices of a father, Lt. Mitchell, and his daughter, Mrs. Maggie Gresham, it spans from 1830 to 1960 and deals with the frontier's lure, westward migration, the Civil War (dominating half the poem) and the modernization and urbanization of America. Mason's rhythm is simple but mesmerizing in the way of good storytelling: "" `All wars are... fought by boys,' "" says Lt. Mitchell, quoting Melville as read to him by Maggie. Then he adds: ""And I saw schoolkids torn apart by bullets,/ their heads bashed in by Confederate rifles./ And I saw Yankees do a thing or two/ to make those people hate us all their lives."" After the family of eight moves west to Oregon, Maggie leaves home at 29, marries at 37, lives in four cities and ends up a childless widow in L.A.: ""They say to grow old without children is/ a curse, and sometimes I believe it's true.../ I have a niece who comes/ and takes me for a drive out by the sea/ and shows me how the city's spreading out/ clear to the mountains."" Following this poem, a model of narrative scope combined with poetic compression, are 12 short works, notably a three-sonnet sequence and six elegiac narratives. (Mar.)
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