Friday, April 26, 2013

Booknote: Waking

Rash, Ron, Waking. Spartanburg (NC): Hub City Press, 2011.

ISBN: 978-1891885822

Genre: Poetry
Subgenre: Mountain and Appalachian Poetry

Ron Rash spoke at Berea College as part of the convocation series on April 4, 2013. Our library had some of his books, so I decided to check out one of his poetry collections. I am glad I did. His poetry captures very well the essence of the region. He is descriptive in a lyrical and sensory way that just takes you to the places and times he brings to life. The poems' imagery can be strong, but it can also be poignant and moving as well. For example, in "Pocketknives," he evokes the memory of the well-worn pocketknife that is passed down from father to son over generations, knives that were an essential part of a man's life:

". . . the one
vanity of men caught once
when dead in a coat and tie,
so ordered from catalogs,
saved and traded for, searched for
in sheds and fields if lost, passed
father to son as heirlooms. . . " (18)

A poem like that recalls a time period that does not seem to exist anymore except in some isolated areas, maybe. The knives were not just a tool; they were talismans, treasures, heirlooms you took pride in and passed on to your son.

Rash covers a broad variety of topics in his poetry: the moving of a mirror into a house in "Mirror," the Civil War in various poems, women, farming, including how tobacco may seem a financial salvation only to be revealed to be ruin in "Tobacco," a poem I think remains very relevant in the message it conveys, and very applicable to other big industries that carry a price often in lives and long term losses. There are many poems here to like that cover the sublime to the quotidian.

For me, as someone who just moving into the Appalachian region, who is still discovering it, the poetry gave me a good feeling for the place, for some of the people, their history and longings and ways. You can tell from the poetry that the author loves and cares for his region and home. I will certainly seek out more of his poetry down the road. 

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