Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Poems {New And Selected} by Ron Rash

Poet Ron Rash

Poems {New And Selected}
by Ron Rash
An Imprint of Harper Collins
New York, NY
Copyright © 2016 by Ron Rash
171 pages, hardcover, $24.99

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

An argument often persists as to where the best poets live: East Coast, West Coast, or Midwest. Forget the rest of the world. Ah, but we forgot the south. Fortunately Ecco, a Harper Collins imprint did not, and so we have a fine collection from Ron Rash.

It is down south that one finds in Deep Water “The night smooths out its black tarp,/tacks it to the sky with stars.” Or reading the poem In Dismal Gorge we learn
The lost can stay lost down here,/in laurel slicks, false-pathed caves. Too much too soon disappears.” While in Black-Eyed Susans “The hay was belt-buckle high/when rain lets up, three days’ sun/baked stalks dry, and by midday/all but the far pasture mowed…”

Reading Rash we come to learn many things about his environment and Southern myths. In Whippoorwill when a man dies, “neighbors at his bedside heard/a dirge rising from high limbs/in the nearby woods, and thought/come dawn the whippoorwill’s song would end…”

In Shelton Laurel is it a Hatfield-McCoy feud, the Civil War or just a battle among the folks in a town? Rash tells a tale that has no answers except mystery of the course of life.

Reading Rash can be frightening – death, sometimes violence – visits often. He also hop scotches time; one poem takes place in the 1967, while another takes place in 1974, another in 1959 and a couple in the 1990s. In many others the time period is not identified and the timelessness of these poems give them a sense of mystery. The reader wants to know where and when. These questions remain unanswered.

The Vanquished is a spot-on memorial to who came before the white man:

Even two centuries gone
their absence lingered—black hair
dazzling down a woman’s back
like rain, man’s high cheekbones,
a few last names, no field plowed
without bringing to surface
pottery and arrowheads,
bone-shards that spilled across rows
like kindling, a once-presence
keep as the light of dead stars.

In The Day the Gates Closed Rash writes a nostalgic paean to simple life lost:

We lose so much in this life.
Shouldn’t some things stay, she said,
but it was already gone,
no human sound, the poplars
and oaks cut down so even
the wind had nothing to rub
a whisper from, just silence
rising over a valley
deep and wide as a glacier.

Whether describing his view of history, his personal experience, a true tale or a Southern myth, Rash’s poems are accessible, enjoyable and worthy of being recognized and appreciated beyond his regional fame.

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, Fire Tongue (Cervena Barva Press, 2016)
Author, Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva Press, 2011)
Author, King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Press, 2010)
Publisher, Muddy River Books
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review

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