Dabney Stuart’s subject over the last thirty years are as disparate as the forms he chooses for them. His range includes baseball (and other games), geography, the movies, history, sideshows, domestic life—a world, in short, that is rich and various.
Amid this exploration, Stuart has sustained certain concerns. The evasive and unsettling nature of family relationships threads consistently through the poems collected in Light Years; the poet uncovers deepening emotional and psychological complexities. There are celebrations of his children, his own sonship, his grandparents and grandchildren. Through it all as he says in “The Opposite Field,” the haunting image / of [a] possible life / watches from a distance.”
Stuart rings evocative changes on recurrent image patterns, too. Birds are central to his work, for instance, and sing often; water flows frequently; music sounds in places as apparently incongruous as a row of cornstalks. Dreams, and dreaming, inform many poems, their precision of detail becoming part of the sharply observed physical world Stuart renders.
Whatever else he is up to, Stuart always seeks the play in language, a source of delight and solace even in the most unlikely context. Indeed, as he writes in “Coming To,”
When he listens
to his words play
back, they shimmer oddly, on
edge—a stranger talking—
as if they have gone
he has no other knowledge of
and brought it back:
Dabney Stuart, professor of English at Washington and Lee University, is the editor of Shenandoah. He is the author of eight books of poetry, including Common Ground, Don’t Look Back, and Narcissus Dreaming, as well as a book of criticism on Nabokov. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, Ploughshares, the Southern Review, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and other publications. Stuart has received two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship.
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