THESE FAIR DAYS by James Meyer


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Meyer’s debut collection of poetry depicts youthful days in rural Western Oklahoma.

These quiet, humble poems about rodeos, cattle ranching, and high school life tell compelling stories while looking for meaning in their events and scenes. For the speaker and his group—his girlfriend, his best friend, and his best friend’s girlfriend—these are halcyon days, though he’d likely use the word “fair” to describe them, as the book’s title does (a reference, in part, to the Oklahoma State Fair). The foursome spends time together in the frigid cold of winter and the exquisite lightness of springtime, often on horseback. The poems are mostly 14 lines long—four tercets plus a final, two-line stanza—though sometimes the pieces are strung together. The speaker seems at once ready for the future and content with what’s at hand; he’s respectful of the gravity of hard work and also enamored with Regina, his 16-year-old sweetheart. She’s likewise satisfied and sure of herself in a way that sometimes surpasses understanding. Even the speaker deliberates on how she defies description: “Talkin’ about Regina is like talkin’ about the color red / or the scent of an orange. / You ain’t ever goin’ to get there.” A long tour de force titled “A New George” movingly narrates a nightlong effort to help a cow give birth and highlights the bonds that people form during a shared experience. Throughout, the characters’ responsibilities setting fences or inoculating cattle overtake the limited demands of their math classes or the dramas of hallway gossip. The poems sometimes overuse dialect phrases, such as “I reckon,” or revert to ambiguous statements, such as “We’re ridin’ and it ain’t half bad.” However, Meyer’s accounts of ranch and teenage life from the summer of 2005 to the spring of 2006 never get dull. Instead, they lyricize the real.

Oklahoma finds a new champion in this original, smart compilation of verse.

Pub Date: Dec. 20th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4993-2846-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2017


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