In this collection of verse, readers witness the progression of a poet from his high school days through his 50th wedding anniversary.
Ballard, whose work has previously been published in such anthologies as The Best Poems and Poets of 2004, collects a lifetime of poetry in this book, organized by subjects such as nature; the poet’s beloved wife, Gwen; God’s love and the act of writing. (Gwen Ballard even contributes a few poems herself, which makes this volume truly a labor of love.) The best pieces pay tribute to the beauty of the Earth. In “The Winter is Barren and Cold,” the poet takes the bleakest season’s evocative imagery and makes it rather beautiful: “The leaves have turned to a bloody brown / and withered deep into the muddy ground / the trees are barren and cold.” Also lovely is “Smitten Timber,” which transforms the act of chopping wood in the winter into a ceremonial act of sacrifice. Ballard is full of respect for his subjects and writes with a pleasing sense of rhythm and rhyme, although readers may long for a bit more variety in his verse, both in structure and in subject matter. For example, the numerous odes to his wife, however sweet, grow somewhat repetitive as they state and restate the date the couple met, the date of their anniversary, how the poet felt when they first kissed, the dates their children and grandchildren were born, and other particulars. Altogether, the collection feels more like a private keepsake for members of the poet’s family than a book for the general public, particularly as it’s illustrated with numerous family photos. Despite this, the verses’ positivity may lift readers’ spirits, warm their hearts and help to remind them of what really matters in life.
Poetry that’s at its best when tackling universal subjects.