Elegiac in tone and modest in ambition, this first book by a midwestern poet adds a touch of magic realism to narratives...

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Elegiac in tone and modest in ambition, this first book by a midwestern poet adds a touch of magic realism to narratives about a lost agricultural world, with deliberate echoes of his prairie-poet ancestors, Sandburg, Masters, and Vachel Lindsay. ""Extending [his] lines,"" like the Indian fishermen he depicts, Fay mulls over scenes from the past: a faded photo of a girl holding a record-sized catfish caught in the Spoon River; a painting of Indians spearfishing in Virginia; and the remains found at a building site in Peoria. Man's connection to the natural world underpins his two long sequences: ""The Milkweed Parables"" is a generational tale, beginning with a young German immigrant girl's apprentice to a local widow who teaches her home remedies; when the girl grows up to become a war widow herself, she has a son who survives battle in the next war by wearing a flotation device stuffed with midwestern milkweed, the same weeds that doomed his earlier attempts at farming. Later, the vest becomes a historical curiosity examined by a niece in a museum. As in the poem ""crossings,"" things move through time and space: termites, Indians, milkweed seeds, a rocking chair, bullets, and letters. The lure and push of landscape is at the center of his other long poem, set in the Lower Illinois Valley (""The Book of Lowilva""): step-siblings remember their lost youth in Buffalo Prairie, with its spring seasons of""plowing and pyromania,""and the desire to head further west. Fay locates the self both in nature and in his larger historical narrative-his verse speaks plainly and compellingly.

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Triquarterly/Northwestern Univ.

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998