Pictures Into Words

Readers of Chronicles already know that David Middleton is an extraordinarily accomplished poet.  For much of the rest of the reading world, unfortunately, he is a well-kept secret.  Living in Thibodaux, Louisiana, and teaching at Nicholls State University, he is far removed from the centers of literary power and influence.  Even if that were not the case, American poets tend to be part of a coterie confined to other poets and would-be poets.  Fortunately, Middleton is not of that ilk.

Some poets paint pictures with words.  Others exploit the sensuous music of words.  Middleton is one of the select few who can do both equally (and seamlessly) well in the same poem.  Like the Nashville Fugitives, he possesses a sure command of the formal resources of verse.  But his work shuns the elliptical and ironic mannerisms of John Crowe Ransom and Allen Tate.  The closest comparison among the Fugitives would probably be to Donald Davidson in the late period of his career, when Davidson had transcended the rhetorical excesses of his early verse to achieve true lyrical power and intellectual subtlety.  It is to Middleton’s credit that he has reached that same level of achievement far more frequently and at a younger age.

Middleton’s most recent book, The Habitual Peacefulness of Gruchy, is a sequence of 60 poems (some of them published first in these pages)...

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