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Open Field, Understory

New and Selected Poems

Southern Messenger Poets

160 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations


  Hardcover / 9780807121290 / January 1997
  Paperback / 9780807121306 / January 1997

This superb collection of new and older work shows James Seay’s sure progress from the reflection of first influences to the strongly individual voice of his later pieces. As always, Seay evokes a profound sense of history and place—the landscape, colors, scents, and musical vocal cadences of his native South and the world at large.

Poems like “Where Books Fall Open” reflect a community of souls striving toward what Whittier called “sweetness near”; Seay generously establishes the kinship between such longings, whether rooted in nostalgia or the resonance of the unnameable. The masterly “Said There Was Somebody Talking to Him Through the Air Conditioner” explores the dialectic of storytelling itself, its claim to whatever demands to be “freed from fact.” In this long poem dedicated to a fellow writer, Seay’s lines limn with urgent and chilling precision the rift between the physical act and its storytelling.

Comic, sad, reflective, exuberant, Open Field, Understory glows with the worn, unselfconscious beauty of broken-in leather. This is a marvelous book by an important modern poet. 

James Seay 's other books of poetry are Let Not Your Hart, Water Tables, and The Light As They Found It. A native of Mississippi, he is a Bowman and Gordon Gray Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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