Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Lost Child: Ozark Poems

Maine’s Poet Laureate, Wes McNair, in his tenth book of poetry takes us home to the Ozarks. Known as a New England writer, McNair here shows us what he is made of, where he got his early sensibilities, by transposing them into verse. While the poems are mainly about the invented Sykes family, the author’s mother, Ruth is referred to by her real name. The free verse poems are laid out in varying stanza lengths, alternating tercets and couplets for some of the faster reads and longer lingering lengths for the more intense revelations. The eldest of the Sykes siblings, Ruth is the centerpiece of the work, written by The Lost Child, himself. “Ruth couldn’t believe she was riding down the road / on an outing instead of sitting in the afternoon circle / back at Elmwood, the home where her son had stuck her,”. The poems are conversational, as if a local person is recounting what just happened at the most recent family reunion “Remembering all the sorrow at the last Sykes reunion, / when the family patriarch and war hero, Homer, / went down at the microphone with his fatal stroke / speaking the words that didn’t go together, . . . .” or at the Chamber of Commerce meeting,  when a veteran is introduced “ . . . and the blinking Christmas / lights over the crèche on one side of the podium /  were red, white, and blue to go with the flag”. The collection is a combination of recollection of the family and elegy to the mother, particularly in the final poem Why I Carried My Mother’s Ashes “ . . . the wings of the plane / lifted me high above the rain clouds / of New England as I carried the ashes back / to the rolling fields and farmhouses and hot sun / of the country where she was born.”

The Lost Child: Ozark Poems
by Wesley McNair
David R. Godine $17.95 (paper)

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