Meeting a local woman at a service project in Appalachia, the narrator of Mike Carson's poem "Muse" hears from her "Those words, iron twang of loss," that "cut soft ideas of beauty out." Carson's lean, spare collection The Keeper's Voice unflinchingly engages those hard ideas of beauty, of goodness. Direct and often colloquial in their language and traditional in their forms--blank verse, quatrains, sonnets--the poems' voices arise from a wide range of viewpoints and situations: from an altar boy thawing a frozen gate lock while early Mass goes on without him, to a returning Vietnam veteran who takes up bull riding; from a boy calling cows in the pre-dawn dark, to a narrator providing instructions for teaching crows to talk; from a new cop, a Christian who must shoot to kill in a ghetto bar, to a family discovering the ashes of a stillborn child among a dead sister's belongings. One poem interweaves locker room slogans with phrases from the Requiem Mass for a friend who died playing football; another centers around a single shout from a wife to her husband threatened by an untethered bull.Refreshingly straightforward, yet suffused with weight, maturity, and passion, The Keeper's Voice projects a wise and uncompromising vision.
Found an Error? Tell us about it.