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SINKING CREEK by John Engels


by John Engels

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-55821-646-4
Publisher: Lyons Press

paper 1-55821-638-3 With a career in poetry spanning some 40 years, Engels, who has long taught writing at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, has evolved into something of a regionalist poet: a grouchy, “cane-waving” New England loner who’s not going gentle—no way. In poem after poem about his decaying body and his fears of death, Engels also arrives at a variety of nature-born epiphanies, moments in his beleaguered life reminding him that the past isn’t all that important—even if he could remember it. A few superb narratives (“Comet” and “Stink”) give voice to two kindred spirits—one an old man who can’t recall much about witnessing a comet in 1910; the other a codger who confesses his disgust at his own father’s last days of filth and rot. The indignities of old age and the punishments of time allow for a few remaining pleasures—tending a garden and, most of all, fishing, the sport Engels enjoys because it is what it is, nothing more. Engels’s more confessional poems and numerous death-centered narratives suffer from a numbing sameness, but at his best he transforms the rustic virtues of clarity and plainness into high meditative art.