The Faces We Had
A poet true to his word, Bart White delivers "that deadly declaration/ absent all hesitation" in The Faces We Had As Children. This remarkably moving book is full of searing poems imbued with duende, the heightened state of emotion, expression, authenticity - and sadness - that Federico García Lorca placed at the heart of great poetry. Yet, even when White is looking death in the eye, he brings warmth and charm to his lines along with images and rhythms evocative of the American South where so many of these poems are set and populated by family members of yore. Open the book, read, become enchanted even as you ponder your own mortality.
Karla Linn Merrifield
Bart White wears his learning lightly, so these subtly crafted and classically constrained poems have the immediacy and naturalness of an old Jack tale from his native Smoky Mountains. The imagery's rich, the cadence sure, the mouth-feel irresistible. Whether leading us down into caves of memory, or out into open fields where dogs roam and a child fiddles, Bart White is one Virgil we can trust to guide us faithfully.
From the book:
My Uncles Take Us Underground
A blazing July afternoon shrank
to a tear of blue surrounded by black
high above us, out of reach.
And turned to face the gloom and when
we looked back, the blue was gone, already
a remembered thing, not present.
We switched on our flashlights; from nothing
rich browns sprang glistening-copper, iron, silicate-
rock faces smoothed by some slow pulse.
Then came a ribbon of water,
shallow, clear and cold, a rippling perfection
flowing over small stones.
Funny, I can't remember which way
that hidden water coursed, in or out. We splashed in
eager to follow it back to its beginning
or end, till we came to a place the roof pressed
down low and halted. Get into the water,
my uncle said, Lie down on your back
and go. He sent me first. Crab-like I crawled
weighted by waterlogged pants and shoes,
straining to hold my head and keep the light up.
Lower and lower the roof came down.
There's no more room! I shouted,
frantic I was trapped with no way back.
Press your mouth against the rock
and breath. Somehow the stone's taste
was reassuring, its mineral savor steadied me.
I shivered but was calmer. Buried already
if I should fail, alone and freezing,
no lover kissed with more fire
than I the stone of my unending tunnel,
my feeble light compressed in so small a space
my breath so shallow.
At last the rock began to rise, revealing a
cavern, and I heard the sound of water
moving swiftly toward a fall.
My cousins came through one by one,
gathered, hallooed in that other-world,
till our uncles told us to shut off our lights.
A lifetime later what's present still in my mind,
not July 4's celebration, luminous arcs
of white-hot colors firing heaven and fading,
nor the faces we once had as children
turned up to gaze at all that ephemera.
I remember the time we were in the cave
my uncles made us put out our lights;
commanded silence so that we could see
the darkness. Nothing, not my own hand
in front of my face, was visible,
so absolute the blackness was,
yet we were unafraid.
And the water…moving.
Bart White gave his first public reading in 2012 after writing poems for nearly a decade. He joined Just Poets of Greater Rochester, New York, helping to edit its annual anthology, Le Mot Juste, in his freshman year. Fellow poets elected him president of the group in 2013. He co-edited Vigil for the Marcellus Shale, 12 Poets Opposing Hydraulic Fracturing (FootHills, 2013). He teaches French and Spanish at The Harley School, and champions poetry there. A native of North Carolina, he grew up in a family full of storytellers.
The Faces We Had As Children
is a 40 page hand-sewn chapbook - $10.00.
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