Finch’s first poetry collection celebrates the lost landscapes of the American countryside and the freedoms of love and faith.
Divided into four sections—“Middle America,” “The Martyrs,” “Loves, New and Lost,” and “America”—this collection succeeds best when its verses focus on the land. The opening poem, “My Wisconsin,” features a “Brilliant blue sky” and a breeze that transports the speaker, a “Weary, rootless traveler.” A sense of movement inheres in word repetition, as in “rolling Dairy State farms,” “rolling cumulus,” and “Sweet Wisconsin rolling through my mind’s content.” More variation in the diction, however, might have heightened readers’ interest in this beloved place. Nostalgia marks many of the poems, as in “I miss the high sky. / I miss the fires burning” from “Note from California.” Nostalgia, always a dangerous trope, garners sympathy for loves lost, but it should also spark skepticism about the perfection of the past. Still, a question posed to an Illinois hilltop (a “lone roll”) and its environs reaches deep: “a soft, warm wind, / Sweet earth scent, and billows of clouds / In a wide prairie sky of youth’s eternal hope. / Where have you gone?” More conventional sentiment appears in the love poems; a flowing dress offers allure and consummation, and readers may well succumb to the pleasures of bliss beneath such a generous shroud. Strange syntax, however, detracts from the book’s resonance; although experimentation can be valuable, it sometimes seems like an editing oversight. However, a late poem, “American Roadside,” achieves the momentum the poet seems to be striving for, despite the frequent absence of anchoring nouns: “Wind the round, deep, delved curve, / Forest swept over, around, dropping slow. / Sure and easy, forever, kept true and cottonwood grow; / Easy the peace that drops and slips, slow and sure….Deep the delved earth runs fast around.” Whoever winds the curve and sweeps the forest must be somehow divine. Although parts of the poem don’t make grammatical sense, readers may be willing to accede to the rightness of its motion.
A small volume that takes on large themes with mixed results.