THIS DEATH BY DROWNING by William Kloefkorn


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 An elegant, moving little book from the current state poet of Nebraska that reflects the author's fascination and intense personal involvement with waters big and small, from farm ponds to the South Pacific. Kloefkorn (English/Nebraska Wesleyan Univ.) cites Loren Eisley's dictum, ``If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.'' The author finds magic in other liquids, too, ``chief among them cow's milk,'' but it is water--and the dangers it can pose--that is Kloefkorn's touchstone, both literary and actual. At the age of six, he fell into Harold Simpson's cow- pasture pond in south-central Kansas and nearly drowned. A few years later his brother, trying to sit behind the wheel of a car submerged in Ely's Sandpit, duplicated the near-fatal mishap. The author writes of his youthful wonder at the family's cistern; of watching his grandmother at a washtub in the backyard, ``washing her long white hair in rainwater''; of his and a paraplegic friend's baptism in Shannon's Creek, performed by a preacher whose sermons were, like ``Kansas waterways, neither deep nor wide.'' Kloefkorn notes another baptism that went awry, with the victim drowning, and wonders if it ``had been sufficiently and well-enough performed for it to have taken hold and thus last.'' Some of the waters he treads are larger, or of different form: He recalls learning of the hundreds drowned in the ``bespoiled water'' of Pearl Harbor; FDR taking the waters at Warm Springs, Ga.; Truman's calling the Hiroshima bomb ``a black rain of ruin''; the time he and a friend dropped an M-80 firecracker in the women's toilet at the Baptist church, bringing on a prodigious flood. He writes, also, of favorite rivers, especially Nebraska's Loup, a stream he has floated down every summer for 30 years. Water drenches these pages, written about in a style that both immerses and quenches.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8032-2736-1
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1997