B. H. Fairchild Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although he is primarily known as a poet, B. H. Fairchild first published Such Holy Song: Music as Idea, Form and Image in the Poetry of William Blake (1980), a scholarly study drawn from his doctoral dissertation. He has also written articles on Nathaniel Hawthorne and Anthony Hecht.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Starting with The Arrival of the Future in 1985, B. H. Fairchild’s major poetry collections have established him as a powerful voice for blue-collar workers and denizens of imperiled small-town America, particularly in the lower Midwest. Significantly, however, he rejects stereotypes; his workers are as likely to be reading the German philosopher Martin Heidegger or listening to classical music by Franz Schubert as they are to be scanning the sports pages or tuning in to pop music. A master of the blended lyric-narrative mode, Fairchild has been recognized from the start with an array of awards ranging from the National Writers’ Union Poetry Competition (1984) to the National Book Critics Circle Award (2002). The Art of the Lathe won him the Capricorn Award (1996), the Beatrice Hawley Award (1997), a Silver Medal from the Commonwealth Club of California (1998), the Natalie Ornish Poetry Award (1999), the PEN Center USA West Poetry Award (1999), the Kingsley Tufts Award (1999), and the William Carlos Williams Award (1999), and it was named a finalist for the National Book Award. He also received the Arthur Rense Poetry Prize (2002), a Gold Medal from the Commonwealth Club of California for Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest (2002), the Bobbitt National Prize (2004), and the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry (2005). He was the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Fairchild, B. H. “A Conversation with B. H. Fairchild.” Interview by Paul Mariani. Image Journal 47 (Fall, 2005): 64-74. Fairchild comments on his love of jazz and art, the impact of his father and his lathe shop, the influence of various poets and writers (including William Stafford, who also graduated from high school in Liberal, Kansas), and the blending of narrative (horizontal lines) and lyric (vertical lines) in his writing.

Frank, Rebecca Morgan. “About B. H. Fairchild.” Ploughshares 34, no. 1 (Spring, 2008): 192-197. This profile traces Fairchild’s history as a poet and describes his poetry. The issue also contains a poem by Fairchild.

Mason, David. “Memory and Imagination in the Poetry of B. H. Fairchild.” Sewanee Review 115, no. 2 (Spring, 2007): 251-263. Comments on remembered events in the poems and imagined or created details, offers a close reading of “Angels,” and commends Fairchild for supplying an eloquent voice for characters who cannot speak out.

Phillips, D. Z. “Words for the Wordless.” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 27 (2003): 45-58. Focuses briefly on Fairchild’s use of Wittgenstein in the poems and provides close readings of “Rave On” and “Beauty.”

Ulin, David. “Poetry of Endless, Unfulfilled Desire.” Review of Usher. Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2009, p. E9. In this favorable review, Ulin notes how Fairchild is speaking through a variety of characters in this work. He describes the poet as creating “an American mythos in which the personal and the collective blur.”