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
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.
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,