|By William Kloefkorn
and David Lee
Nebraska State Poet William Kloefkorn and David Lee, distinguished Utah poet, collaborate in this volume of 135 pages of poems from their respective American landscapes. Kloefkorn’s poetry is well known to Midwesterners for its candid glimpses of rural life, and for its sincere emotional impact. David Lee’s poetry is an affectionate parody of the dialect of small-town folk, and of their ability to elaborate limitlessly on a simple situation or idea. Together, the two writers synthesize in a single volume the most interesting aspects of both the West and Midwest.
Kloefkorn’s poems take us from a locker room shower to a thundershower on the morning of a funeral, and through experiences as diverse as eating popcorn from a stolen collection plate to treating a grandmother’s ganglionic cyst with a leather-bound bible.
“…Pure American folk and wonderful.”—David Curry, Apple
“…one of the most powerful pieces of writing, of any kind, that I have read to date. This is Midwest poetry at tis best.”—Tom Montag, Margins
Lee’s poems introduce such characters as Reverend Pastor Brother Strayhan, who “preaches” that he should get half-price discounts at local stores; Uncle Abe, a wanderer who carries with him only a sack of candy and a childhood memory; and Harold Rushing, an industrious soul who works six and a half days a week, barely pausing after a broken arm and a heart attack.
“Reading Lee’s poetry is like sitting on a wide porch in the summer with a favorite uncle you don’t see often and listening to him ramble along with tales of the local townsfolk.”—Library Journal
“Impolite, raffish, and pathetic, these poems all are, once you start hearing the dialect, great reading.”—Ray Olson, Booklist
This manuscript, publication of which was delayed by Sergeant Patrick Gass, dates to the late 1990s. It belongs to Kloefkorn’s explorations of his personal and shared history in small-town Kansas, revisiting and expanding material that will be familiar to readers of his two memoirs This Death by Drowning, Burning the Imaginary Child, and earlier collections of poetry. The poems, filled with Midwest idiom and cadences, favor the three- and four-line stanza with which Kloefkorn is so adept.
|Loup River Psalter
is a hymn to the river in Nebraska, to the river of life, and to life on
rivers everywhere. The book is a more controlled, more benign, and quintessentially
Midwestern version of James Dickey’s Deliverance: men on
water looking for fish and camping places, adventure and fellowship; confronting
vicissitudes of nature and the shoreline with rod, reel, and guitar; and
discovering in the process the renewal of a second baptism. “And so
it goes,” Kloefkorn concludes to end the last poem in the collection;
“our story’s never done” (101).
|In Sergeant Patrick
Gass, Chief Carpenter: On the Trail with Lewis & Clark Nebraska
State Poet William Kloefkorn recounts the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition,
1803-1806, St. Charles to the Pacific Ocean and back. He bases his poems
on the long out-of-print journal kept by Sergeant Gass. “I’m
attracted to the sergeant’s poetic grasp of understatement,”
Kloefkorn writes in his preface, “to his love of timber, to his capacity
for loyalty—not only to the expedition as both a military unit and
a family, but likewise to his hatchet and his flask, both of them returning
intact to St. Louis with the man who nurtured and protected them.
Two features of this book are especially interesting. One of them is stylistic: the seamlessness Kloefkorn achieves by printing poems with no titles, no dates, and with the judicious use of foreshadowing. The long months and years of the expedition melt into an on-going process, eternally present like the rivers followed by the Expedition. The book is almost one long poem in many sections, a structure toward which Kloefkorn has been moving across his previous two collections of poetry. Equally interesting is the way Kloefkorn merges large details of history—drawn from Gass’s diary and other public records—with intimate details, emotions, and stories suggested by the diary but attributable largely to the poet’s intuition: Gass’s complex emotional relationship with Sacagawea and her husband, his senses of duty and honesty, the metaphors of craft, wood, and tools.
Welcome to Carlos celebrates the friendship between two Midwestern boys from different sides of the track, “a bad penny and a good penny,” as Kloefkorn puts it in the book’s closing poem. But bad and good being equally balanced halves of a healthy personality, Carlos is as attractive (and necessary) to a reader as he is to Kloefkorn, a wellspring of earthy advice: “If you ever get hit with a bucket of shit, / be sure to close your eyes” (5). “Deny everything. / Make the bastards prove it” (22). “Believe what you believe / late at night when what / you have been told to believe / has washed itself from the soft skin / of your stoutest face” (79). Carlos is Kloefkorn’s most enjoyable, and memorable, creation in a long time.
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