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Blacksnake at the Family Reunion


72 pages / 5.50 x 8.50 inches / no illustrations


  Paperback / 9780807144695 / November 2012

Winner of the Appalachian Writers Associations Book of the Year Award

Winner of the The L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award

David Huddle’s latest collection, Blacksnake at the Family Reunion, shares intimate and amusing stories as if told by a quirky, usually reticent, great uncle. In “Boy Story,” a teenage romantic meeting ends abruptly when the boy’s sweetheart realizes they have parked near her grandmother’s grave. The poem “Aloft” recalls a widowed mother’s indignation after she receives a marriage proposal in a hot air balloon. Haunted by the words on his older sister’s tombstone—“born & died . . . then / a single date / in November”—the speaker in one poem struggles to understand a tragic loss: “The ampersand / tells the whole truth / and nothing but, / so help me God, / whose divine shrug / is expressed so / eloquently / by that grave mark.”

Blacksnake at the Family Reunion continues Huddle’s poetic inquiry into the power of early childhood and family to infuse adulthood with sadness and despair—an inquiry conducted with profound empathy for the fragility of humankind.

A native of Ivanhoe, Virginia, David Huddle has lived in Vermont for over four decades. He is the author of nineteen novels, short story collections, essays, and volumes of poetry, including Glory River and Blacksnake at the Family Reunion. He teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English and the Rainier Writing Workshop.

Praise for Blacksnake at the Family Reunion

“With their easy manner and deeply ingrained intimacy, the poems of David Huddle’s Blacksnake at the Family Reunion read as if written on the skin: personal and family history interspersed with the imaginative and the speculative, all scanned and reported with a practiced and practical eye. Inviting in ‘breeze-blown death birds’ while looking for snacks in the back of the fridge, Huddle wonderfully erases the divide between the daily and the profound.”—Carol Moldaw

“David Huddle’s affection for life is clear and moving. And while the vitality of many of these poems is rooted in the past, Huddle is a master at showing how his past is still alive in his days. I also like that these poems are both sweet and sour, that they openly adore and quietly interrogate. He is especially adept at probing the nature of desire without destroying what he examines, almost daring Heisenberg with his ability to leave what he observes intact. More than anything, I walk away from this book enlivened by Huddle’s appreciation for what he has experienced and seen, a gratitude encoded in the ease and joy of his language.”—Bob Hicok

In Black Snake at the Family Reunion, David Huddle’s subject is the mysterious, ever-giving moment-gone-by. His poems achieve an incredibly rare balance of forces: they openly confess, yet leave essential silences intact. They reverence the past, but passionately, alert to desire’s rough hold on us. Unabashed at real emotion, utterly present to loss, Huddle recognizes intimacy for the fearsome force it is and tenderness for the ways it disturbs the peace. What to call this singular sensibility? The “respledent-conversational” might begin to do justice to one of the most original voices writing today.”—Lia Purpura

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