Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fable in the Blood: The Selected Poems of Byron Herbert Reece

Editor:  Jim Clark
Year: 2002
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Pages:  185

It's rare that I venture into poetry but I've wanted to explore more of Byron Herbert Reece's work for a while now. I first became aware of Byron Herbert Reece while attending Young Harris College in the northeast Georgia mountains. Reece lived in Young Harris' backyard and taught at the college for a bit. He was a farmer poet. He took over his parent's farm when they became ill. He also struggled with loneliness and his own illness. His poetry reflects his farmer roots and his loneliness as shown in the poem I Go By Ways of Rust and Flame.

A solitary thing am I
Upon the roads of rust and flame
That thin at sunset to the air.
I call upon no word nor name,
And neither question nor reply
But walk alone as all men must
Upon the roads of flame and rust.

He wrote both lyrical poems and ballads that showcase his Appalachian roots. When I read the poems about farming and the mountains, I can see the Georgia mountains that we both lived in and feel them in the poetry. But I think the poems that resonate the  most with me are the ones that talk about religion and God. Some of the poems such as The Adoration are full of worship. Yet others, such as Whose Eye Is on the Sparrow, show some struggles with the all knowing and all caring God:

I saw a fallen sparrow
Dead upon the grass
And mused to see how narrow
The wing that bore it was.

By what unlucky chance
The bird had come to settle
Lopsided near the fence
In sword grass and nettle

I had no means to know
But this I minded well:
Whose eye was on the sparrow
Shifted, and it fell.

Reece is virtually an unknown but, hopefully, one day he will be more recognized and read. The world is missing out on some truly beautiful poetry.


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