Stanford Searl has created a collection of biographical poems with a mythic echo, offering numerous sensual delights. The poet depicts life in rural Vermont, re-creating town characters and relatives with equal veracity. The images are discrete and colloquial, but always the Black River winds beyond the speaker, merging with our own recollections, urging us to claim the light filtering through our lives. The sound of hymns, the sometimes brutal language, the tenderest of moments, keep lapping at our ears, resounding with the Main Streets we may have known.
These are poems born of riverbank caves, of the lyre and sweet corn, of rhubarb, molasses and dandelion greens. Here also are the infirmities of aging, the personal specters of war and suicide, vodka and cancer. These poems tug at the heart like a cat toying with a ball of yarn. We are helpless to the unraveling. There is the hand gently closed over the child’s hand. There are lessons in splitting wood, in retrieving a basketball, in a hilariously gendered game of croquet. Honest, courageous narratives unveil a childhood born of strife, in which love prevails. In the end, love resurrects memory with a fierce grip on the bucket rising out of the family well.
Carol Barrett, author of Calling in the Bones (Ashland Poetry Press, 2005)