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La Plata Cantata

Jim Barnes

61 pages
Purdue University Press
From the flatlands of Missouri, through the prairies and high plains of Kansas and New Mexico, to the mountains of the Southwest and the Northwest, Jim Barnes’s poems give us the essence of the land west of the Mississippi. They let us know that the American Outback is a place in the heart that will not let go, and they do this through the strong presence of personae. Notable in these poems is a high sense of loss that has been rendered tenable by the kind of lyric narrative that Yeats knew so well. The poet affirms for us the passing of the many things we never really held, though we may have thought we did. These poems are not talking poems. They sing. They chant. They leave indelible tracks across our eyes. The book begins with a kind of quiet precision found in Emily Dickinson, moves into haunting narrative lyrics, and ends in the realm of the hard history of self and place. And everywhere there is evidence of the poet's compassion, without evidence of the poet himself.