From Manhattan to the rural Midwest—one of our most distinguished poets offers a verbal cinema of America.
Over two decades and five books, Fairchild, a native Midwesterner, has built a loyal highbrow following for deft compositions that depict, with wit, pathos and regret, the ordinary lives of modern Americans-a dispossessed Great Plains farmer; a young Jewish New Yorker working as a movie theater usher, who comes to terms with Christian theology; Doris Miller of Clyde, Missouri, "on evening break at Wal-Mart"; a pool room full of Texas college students drinking while thinking about higher math. All those characters turn up in this new collection; so does a set of prose poems devoted to classic B-movies, and another about "The Beauty of Abandoned Towns." Other poems play philosophical games, as in the monologue spoken by the barber (famous in mathematical circles) who shaves all and only those barbers who do not shave themselves. Even there, however, everything intellectual becomes at last accessible, as if all ideas took place on "some vast, flat plain of pure event where things/ just happen." Fairchild pays homage, by name, to the grim, witty Anthony Hecht, but his own compositions, suffused with prairie sadness, could easily appeal to the broader audience for, say, Garrison Keillor or Ted Kooser. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.