In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews 381 suggests an intriguing new way in which to approach American literature—as conjunct to American art. TheHauntingFamiliarity ofThings:Poems. ByRon McFarland. (Canton, Connecti­ cut: Singular Speech Press, 1993. 60 pages, $7.50.) Not an Idahoan by birth, nevertheless Ron McFarland gains “statehood”by living, seeing, thinking, and feeling TheHauntingFamiliarity ofThingsm his state of choice. A proponent of small-town life, he adds a poetic but realistic chapter to William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways as he roams the varied landscapes of this, his third book. Certainly, McFarland is a man at home in a slower-paced world; tolerant of, but not limited by, physical and psychological boundaries of depressed areas inhabited by farm women, “little guys,” closings, foreclosures, and lay-offs. “Stone-hard lessons” might tempt disillusion, but not when curiosity, fantasy, grit, humor, imagination, and survival tempt more. His method—insight rather than oversight—tests his maxim for living: “What flows ebbs,/what rises falls, what takes gives.” Narrative poems flow like stories, without sections or chapter titles, a serendipitous technique that leads readers into individual seeing. McFarland examines ways of knowing at all ages and stages of life; ways of believing that guide lives. He provides tension and movement byforegoing “eastern”intellectualism for “western”recovery from “our stingy sensibilities,”grown that way by passively “waiting daily for something to happen./It never does.” Thus, he elevates, enlivens, and enlarges small happenings through ways of seeing that raise the ordinary nearer the extraordinary. McFarland photographically captures and crops the family farm; old-maid Aunt Stella; the town marshal; small-town patriotism; high-school dates; bird and snake stories; myths; folk wisdom; common sense; truth; wisdom. Yet he focuses on values rather than nostalgia to convince that on-the-house coffee in Montana shows a fellow feeling more people ought to know. Each snapshot of something or someone defends his poetic argument that “The picture/captures all of this, given the right viewer.” McFarland argues that small western towns spawn people who live “as if/ we’re going to live forever”. . . “You become optimistic about the order of things.” “I’ve seen the shark,” the poet says, but in the long run he reminds us that the commonplace must haunt our sensibilities with presence, or we will never have “a stone . . . astonish us,” hear “the women’s light laughter,” or be “surprised by evening.” DAVID TEAGUE University ofDelaware DEBORAH CLIFFORD GESSAMAN Smithfield, Utah ...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
p. 381
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.