On Work, For the Night Is Coming by Jared Carter
For a book safely into its second printing, this is a rather tardy review. But this book deserves favorable comment at any time. Carter’s work is an example of what is right in regional writing. Rather than evoking local color as an end in itself, getting lost in the plat books and cornfields, this poetry furnishes a quality of relationship: the past in relation to the present, Mississinewa County — which Carter has created as the setting for his poems — its people, storefronts, and countryside, in relation to the eternal questions of death, of change, of learning. Carter has a gift for assembly; it is characteristic that the first poem in the book, “Geodes,” ends with the belief “that things gather themselves…forever.” Carter is indeed an inductive poet, leading from the particular to the universal. For me, this book proceeds calmly, with many sideroads’ displays of wit and metaphor. The countryside is more discovered than described. He writes in “Mississinewa County Road”: “Your headlights show these things / To a part of your mind that cannot hurry.” This mastery of pace and intention has indeed made Carter’s poetry something the reader can linger in. Maybe writing in this area can develop without taking note of this booked, but regionally-directed poets would do better to approach the problems and technique of writing about their locality in light of Work, For the Night Is Coming. —Daniel Bourne
On The Pikestaff Forum & The Pikestaff Review
Printed on the newsprint, in floppy newspaper format, Pikestaff Forum isn’t much to look at. But it prints lots of good poetry, including the work of John Judson and Jared Carter. There’s room for essay reviews, commentary, and fiction as well, though to my eyes the prose suffers more in appearance (lacking that sense of the “page”) than the poems, which are wedged in with each other efficiently, but not to the point of visual damage. The most valuable feature, especially to the writer, is the editors’ profile section, where editors of other literary magazines, both established and new, talk about their publications, attitudes toward writing, and anything else that’s on their minds.
Pikestaff Review is more visually palatable. The editors have put what they think is the best poetry in this more permanent, photograph and graphic-spiced publication. But, at least in the issues I compared, the more interesting (and farthest from what Felix Stefanile has termed “2 x 4 poem”) poetry appeared in Pikestaff Forum — and there was more of it. Taking into account the thoughtful reviews and most of all the editors’ profile section, if you want to subscribe, the Forum is the better buy. —Daniel Bourne
On El Evasionista/The Escape Artist by Jorge Etcheverry
Let’s begin by saying that when he is at his best, Jorge Etcheverry’s poetry is full of wide-sweeping imagery, the unexpected line or metaphor that is built upon and intensified to climax. It is a dynamic poetry that takes no shortcuts in its powerful swirls as it explores the philosophical problems with which the poet is concerned.
El Evasionista/The Escape Artist is the first of three planned bilingual editions of Chilean work to be published in 1981 by Ediciones Cordillera, a publishing house established by left-wing writers in exile, living in Ottawa, Canada. In Part One of El Evasionista, Etcheverry’s verse is unfortunately at its least effective. Although the philosophical concerns of the writer are present, there is no centering point for the reader, especially one ignorant of the socio-cultural background against which the poetry is set. Part of the problem may be the translation, which, though accurate, suffers at times from being too literal and not truly effective in rendering the sound and movement of the original. This is, of course, in part unavoidable.
In Part Two, the poetic force takes charge, when Etcheverry yields “before the ancient forces of sex.” Here Etcheverry’s poetry quits groping and he finds a focus around which his powerful imagery can revolve. In Part Three of El Evasionista, Etcheverry’s verse approaches prose-poetry as he returns to less sharply etched social themes, “linked to a revolution which is perhaps a dream.” The book ends with “Epitaph for the School of Santiago,” a poem arising from his experience of exile, where he acknowledges “the passage of time,” with dignity and resignation, and a certain sense of condescension toward the world he now finds himself in.
We at Artful Dodge look forward to further books in the series of Chilean emigre writers. Ediciones Cordillera will soon issue Historias del Reino Vigilado/Stories from a Guarded Kingdom by Nain Nomez, and an anthology of Canadian poetry on Latin America, to include poems by Al Purdy, Margaret Atwood, Patrick Lane, Susan Musgrave, and others.
—Chris Kearns & Daniel Bourne