Austin Smith. Princeton Univ, $14.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-691-15919-5
“I return to the Midwest as light/ returns to a black hole,” Smith begins one poem: most of his lucid debut describes the built environment, harsh tasks, enduring attachments, familiar animals, and generations of people around the Illinois dairy farm where Smith grew up, along with “the trembling light/ the granaries can barely contain.” Smith also writes prose fiction, and his poems have the efficiencies and the virtues of realist prose: he sees how “The boys become their fathers,/ promise one day they’ll take/ a day off”; how a large-animal veterinarian “talks. High school basketball as he cinches/ the chains tight around the white forelegs,/ just above the pinkish hooves”; how a “toothless roofer” mourns his son, how to euthanize a horse—“If you have kids, tell them/ what’s going to happen/ sometime in the afternoon.” Smith’s verbal goals—nothing fancy, all things plainly told—have obvious affinities with Richard Hugo and Philip Levine, and they fit Smith’s plain, Plains-centered, mostly masculine subjects. His poems about his own family can disintegrate into all-too-plain reminiscence, feel all too close to realistic prose. At the same time, those that work as self-contained, compact stories will stick in the mind for a while. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/22/2013
Release date: 09/01/2013
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 96 pages - 978-1-4008-4803-4
Hardcover - 96 pages - 978-0-691-15918-8
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