In the Orchard

Fandel, John

AWAKENING THE SENSES IR TIE OHCHABD Charles W. Pratt The Tidal Press, $22, $15 paper, 62 pp. John Fondcl Each of the thirty-three poems in Charles Pratt's first collection has something...

...The man shouldering logs, for example, "when a log slips from his shoulder / At last, like guilt or a cherished injury," feels "For a moment he's almost light enough to fly," Boulders in an old field are "knucklebones / Of buried giants...
...Looking through branches, you'd guess airplanes, / But watch a while and they still keep their place...
...the Eve poem, "The Gift," after his looking at a stained glass window by Gabriel Loire, brightly closes the orchard poems...
...You hear apples fall you almost hear them grow...
...I read this collection for the first time just be122: Commonweal fore a check-up by my doctor...
...A half year's leave of absence from teaching gave him the time to complete this sequence, supported by The New Hampshire Commission of the Arts and The National Endowment for the Arts...
...You get all the senses awakened in "Harvest," especially in the image of pressing windfalls to cider: Sunyellow Hornets, now, mellowed from when, In August, the mower brought their stinging Hubbub up from underground, Nuzzle my sticky fingers, gentle as cows...
...So I re-read the poems, though they excite me...
...Reading galleys, I have not seen the Balderacchi illustrations...
...In spraying apple trees, the farmer is "Dressed like an astronaut or lunatic / Religious in hooded / Waterproof, respirator, goggles...
...Raising apples, besides, gives him the opportunity for an Adam, as well as an Eve, poem, "On the Beauty of the Universal Order," a fine poem, serious and amusing...
...Kumin calls them elegant and clean...
...The comparison between a crooked house, "Vermont House," and the mind, is playful, instructive...
...The contrasts in the family poems are strong, too, the poem for Tim, his son, and the poem for Sarah, his daughter, and all the love poems for Joan, his wife, but especially "The Poet Attempts to Console His Wife, Who Has Just Put His Wallet through the Washing Machine," with its last two marvelous lines: And what the wallet did when it was washed Was put you in my arms...
...The remaining poems have arresting contrasts as in "Raking Leaves in New England," vain beauty contrasting dark purity, a subtle, deeply so, poem...
...They have excited other poets to praise...
...The first thirteen poems were written while Pratt lived on a small apple orchard...
...One contrast I especially like is in "Driving to Cape Cod," the way it was in the days when Pratt's father drove and the family saw what he slowed down to see, and the way it is now "On a strip of macadam laid down like the law...
...and so we kissed...
...Pratt's theory of writing is as nice as what comes of it: "I recently read in a dentist's waiting room a magazine article which explained that paying quiet, careful attention to something outside of oneself is good for the blood pressure...
...A porcupine is "A small fur hat some passing Russian's left...
...Thirty-five," his youth contrasted with his anticipated age, yields: The wall around your garden is the price That must be paid for any paradise and At sixty let me have a lover's nerve To let the inside out, the outside in...
...From a hilltop, the stargazer sees "stars / At eyelevel quiver in the night...
...The contrast between Frost and Ransom playing ball, "Two Poets in Vermont," is rare fun...
...the indoor seasons you see, too, through an inner eye just as clear...
...You see through a clear eye the seasons of outdoor work and play...
...You feel the cold and the heat...
...Winter Squash" yields the rich comparison between spirit seeking matter and Pratt's going into the root cellar, a crafted metaphor...
...Swoon to that foaming sweetness where they drown...
...John Fondcl Each of the thirty-three poems in Charles Pratt's first collection has something fresh and new, an image, a line, an idea, so in reading them you have continuous rewards, little surprises to make you smile, or ponder or take delight...
...Five poems yield these...
...if they are anything like the poems they must be smart and joyous...
...27 February 1987: 123...
...Reeve calls them' friendly and compassionate...
...Outdoor poems, they have indoor musings...
...Nims calls them tangy and redolent...
...my blood pressure was down...
...I would add, delightful and wise...
...you can find ten times as many in the rest...
...and Hope says they are quirky, sinewy...
...The act of writing is to me a way of paying such attention, and thereby of bringing self and outside world into harmony...
...To the extent that I've succeeded, perhaps the reader will experience a similar sense of harmony, and enjoy a similar improvement of the blood pressure...
...Such an entertaining, satisfying book look at his fable in French with his English translation for a charming contrast published by an elegant and wise small press...

Vol. 114 • February 1987 • No. 4


 
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