In the forty poems in The Arrival of the Future, B. H. Fairchild dwells on scenes in the Midwest and South: an Oklahoma farm, a wheat field, a potato patch, a small-town cafeteria, a highway in west Texas, a grocery store, a movie house, a tavern, a barber shop, a machine shop, and a hotel. Each is evoked in such vivid, descriptive detail that one assumes the poet is recalling early boyhood experiences. Yet the portraits of those who people these locales and the scenes themselves lack sentimentality, however fondly the poet remembers, and the images have a sharpness that delivers meaning without excess emotion.
Structurally, the poems reveal considerable artistry. Fairchild employs enjambment to regulate not only the rhythms of his lines but also the meaning. Shorter lines break meaning into fragments of thought, suggesting the discontinuity of scattered remembrances, as though the material of thought is present but the connectedness of meaning is still missing, as in these lines from “The Girl in the Booth.”
new car, string of trout,holidays in Hawaii—bending palm and floralbackground—then weddingsand funerals, same brightbleached faces and some kidfrowning into the ground.Sometimes, though, the oddshot: old guy in the atticwindow.
The pauses at a line’s end to suggest a thought that is modified in the next line also suggest that the poem’s persona remains uncertain of the meanings that accumulate as he remembers. This give-and-take is managed by the ebb and flow of the lines’ rhythms and lengths, and the poem concludes when meaning itself has achieved coherent shape.
Stanzaic structures are used to give a poem both symmetry and balance: three stanzas of...
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