Olson_Review
Reviews

Cathedral of the World

I first encountered the poetry of B.H. Fairchild when I chose to review Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest (2003).  Despite its odd, even off-putting title, which seems to extrude tendrils of the New Age, the book was—is—one of the best original collections of contemporary poetry I’ve read.  It proceeded to win the National Book Critics Circle Award, and its 30-page pièce de résistance, “The Blue Buick,” has become the most famous American narrative poem since the heyday of Stephen Vincent Benet and Robinson Jeffers, neither of whose work it resembles much at all.  That’s probably why it lends Fairchild’s retrospective collection its title, though it is otherwise central to his work.

“The Blue Buick” is autobiographical, the story of an absolutely crucial friendship in the life of an intelligent, literarily inclined youngster in Liberal, Kansas, in the early 1960’s.  The young man’s father runs a machine shop that repairs the pipes used for drilling oil—until the diamond core supersedes the old tri-cone bit (“You know what that is?” father says to son.  “Well, that’s the end of the story.”)  One of his last employees is “the best machinist I’ve ever seen.”  North Texan Roy Eldridge Garcia has been places—Paris, New York, Hollywood—and...

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