Wind Mountain is the third volume of a four-book sequence of poems which will eventually be published under the title Midquest, a nonchronological, experimental “novel in verse.” Fred Chappell’s sequence began in 1975 with River and was followed two years ago by Bloodfire; the final volume has already been completed and will be published next year. Thus far, the poems suggest that as the poet approaches middle age (the poems begin when he was thirty-five, although they also range over memorable episodes from his childhood), he is searching for meaning and pattern among his memories of growing up and living in the South. Chappell grew up in Western North Carolina—not far from Thomas Wolfe country—and his poems frequently allude to the place names of his foothill region: Hurricane Creek, Sandy Mush, Big Laurel, and so forth. In fact, in “Remembering Wind Mountain at Sunset,” he makes poetry of these interesting place names: “Meadow Fork and Sugar Camp and Trust, Luck,/Sliding Knob, and Bluff.” Each of the books has been organized around one of the four elements; the first water, the second fire, and here wind or air. Earth is yet to come; when it is published the overall design will be clear.
It is possible now, of course, to discern the author’s pattern. Each book has contained eleven poems and been organized around one overriding image, as mentioned. Further, each sequence employs an astonishing variety of poetic forms, from free verse and blank verse to couplets and Dante’s terza rima—although none of the poems in Wind Mountain relaxes into prose poems, as was the case in River and Bloodfire. No doubt the variety of poetic forms is meant to suggest the diversity of the scattered memories being offered as “samples” from the poet’s first thirty-five years.
Wind Mountain is meant to stand on its own, as River and Bloodfire do. However, one notes here many backward glances to the previous volumes, as well as suggestions of what is to come, in “Wind Subsides on the Earth River.” A number of poems brilliantly employ images from all four...
(The entire section is 892 words.)