No Place Like Home

        "If any man hunger, let him eat at home."
—1 Corinthians 11:34

Fred Chappell's Family Gathering, his first book of poems since 1995's Spring Garden: New and Selected Work, is a collection of short verse portraits that allows Chappell to display his considerable gifts for miniature (a talent also on display in his epigram collection C from 1993). There is no linear "plot" to this cycle nor a readily discernible "theme"; the book is a gallery of personages, a family, come together for an unnamed purpose. The subject is a familiar one for Chappell, and the command of his material is equalled by his display of formal dexterity'. But aside from providing readers with the pleasure of watching a master craftsman at work. Family Gathering is a sad reminder that families today hardly ever gather anymore.

Family Gathering reminds us of a better time, although it is in no way an anachronistic work. The whole spectrum of human experience is here, from greed to goodness, from chastity to concupiscence, from youthful innocence to old age which has not necessarily attained wisdom. What family has not suffered the scourge of an Uncle Einar, a cigar-puffing hick who has made a little money in his lifetime and now feels it is his duty to tutor others in the inexhaustible glories of capitalism?

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