B. H. Fairchild to Donovan Welch

 

The following comes from B. H. (Pete) Fairchild, National Book Award finalist for The Art of the Lathe, and winner of The National Book Critics Circle Award for Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest.  It’s addressed to Donovan Welch, Professor Emeritus in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

 

 

February 22, 2003

 

Dear Don:

 

You’re still the king of metaphor: “the flesh under his biceps a happy flag/helloing the world,” “Needled by despair, the compass/of her heart swings wildly/in search of one magnetic bit,” “the gray flesh of her upper arms/like dolphins leaping in a sleeveless sea,” “her words/ like a broken bottle / aimed at the back / of his head.”

 

And I know exactly how “the discovery of her old hex bolts/ can weld minutes into moments.” I loved the last stanza of “In the Showroom,” and this is as fine a closure as any poet could ask for:

 

            Never were the hops

            of the fields harvested

 

            with less biblical dread,

            the son, dropping his drawers,

            mooning his father, while

            waddling spiritually ahead.

 

Absolutely brilliant.  The poems go right to my heart.  I think it’s one of your very best books.  I kept thinking of W.C.W. as I read these because I think this is exactly what he had in mind when he talked about an American idiom and a truly American poetry.

 

In Liberal, our first little rent house backed onto the alley behind main street.  John Smith and I built a little car, barely a chassis, with a half-horse Briggs and Stratton motor, and on the virgin run I ran it right into the wall of the Magneto Electric Store.  Sometimes well after midnight, I would be awakened by a middle-aged woman dressed in her high school formal wandering the alley and going through the trash cans.  I write about her in “Old Women.” There was a beer joint next to Magneto Electric, and there used to be fist fights in the alley, young men with nothing better to do than beat the crap out of each other.  I had almost forgotten about the life, and lives, of the alley.  Your alley poems are stunning, but I think you were already ahead of the game when you came up with the idea.

 

I will read these to my students. My school has changed considerably over the last ten years.  Two thirds of the entering freshmen have to take comp at the lowest remedial level.  Many of them hold two jobs and know well the life of the alleys.

 

Thanks for these, Don.  Be well,

 

                                                            Pete


 

Speechless Spring 2007
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Tebot Bach