David Middleton has spent nearly all his life in the state where he was born, Louisiana. Growing up in Saline, in the northwestern part of the state, as of 2006 he lived in Thibodaux, in southeastern Louisiana, near the Mississippi Delta. There he composed The Building Fields. The poems are short to medium-length and use rhyme and meter. They also, however, have a conversational, personal quality, and Middleton’s use of contemporary language avoids archaisms and stilted expressions.
Middleton begins and ends the collection with poems dedicated to the memory of his maternal grandmother, surnamed Sudduth, who died in Saline in 1962. The opening poem, “The Vision,” describes the grandmother’s memories of her southern past in vivid, sensory terms, describing the plants and birds of the region as well as the grandmother’s grace and courtesy. The grandmother’s optimism about what awaits her in the afterlife is conveyed charmingly and unpretentiously. The closing poem, “The Family Tree,” describes a pecan tree in the grandmother’s backyard. The combination of the tree’s abundance and mortality, its fertility and its vulnerability to nature’s ravages, become symbols for the grandmother, whose bodily mortality is offset by the continuity of the poet’s memories of her.
“The Vision” is followed by “The Patriarch,” a poem dedicated to the memory of the poet’s grandfather. A white, male southerner, he was haunted by the legacy of the Civil War. “His” war, however, was World War I, and Middleton makes the...
(The entire section is 642 words.)