Thursday, June 6, 2019

Winter in Fargo - Rodney Nelson (Ravenna Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Winter in Fargo.  Rodney Nelson.  Ravenna Press.  Spokane, Washington.  2016.

Rodney Nelson only uses English as a template because these poems are in a whole new language.  Today's book of poetry was in after about three poems, hooked by the simple beauty of Nelson's accomplishment.  Winter in Fargo is all about place and Nelson takes us all firmly to Fargo.

Winter has never quite been like this before.  Winter in Fargo dials into a collective unconscious where we are comfortable with Nelson's unique vision.  The reader transported, lulls and rolls onto the crisp white landscape, and discovers it ripe with new mystery.


northern prairie had not thralled me
yet even on the cross-quarter
day I would not have wanted to
be any other where
                   I had
taken to Flagstaff and Yuma
and Petaluma easy in
winter and would have liked to try
the time in any one of them
                   but when the sun came up
on the cross-quarter day to ten
below and showed that prairie had
moved into town I wanted the
white and still and would not have been
any other where anytime


Winter in Fargo is strong and slow, almost languorous, so Today's book of poetry is thinking Keith Jarrett, The KΓΆln Concert.  Slow and languorous until the all consuming sweep of it blows over you like a snow squall.

Rodney Nelson has his own smooth.  These poems had instant cred here in the Today's book of poetry offices.  Milo, our head tech, said it felt like Cormac McCarthy without the obvious violence.  Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, thought Nelson's Winter in Fargo reminded her of the thickly layered canvases of London artist Ron Martin.

Related image

Groping and Meditating on a Confusion of Shapes
Ron Martin
Courtesy of the Canada Council Art Bank

The Ron Martin painting shown is huge, several feet wide and several feet high.  Martin's monochromatics contain unique depths and Rodney Nelson makes us feel as though we are in a new world, with new horizons, new nightfalls.

Of Gwendolyn Macewan

age and a river flood in
childhood we had in common
                      same river and flood
                      but when
a Canadian mentioned
the name I did not read on
may have noted an inward
fixity that I lacked
Bohemian Embassy
in Toronto was part of
my San Francisco and I 
leant towards cabalas too if
never the Cabala
would have taken any
          over the
that she went into dying
by her own vodka at the
moment almost I quit it
and we did not get to have
in common the age I am
now or the historical
tried-and-untrue one out there
doubt that she affected
what I wrote and she would not
have read it but another
look at her work reminds me
of the much I have not known
                        not to believe
                                        that she has
                                        yielded all her mystery
                                        admit there is something
                                        else you cannot name
                     in that
land or the inward country
I have yet to follow to
we had that other time in
                     maybe a shadow


Today's book of poetry is almost always going to pay special attention to any poet who gives special attention to Gwendolyn MacEwen.  When Today's book of poetry first became truly enamoured with poetry it was through Earle Birney's great poem David that opened the door, but the next thing we read was beautiful Gwendolyn's The Armies of the Moon.  Today's book of poetry was enthralled.  Also, Gwendolyn was once married to Saint Milton of Acorn, yet another reason to hold MacEwen in the highest esteem.  Gwendolyn MacEwen is Canadian Poetry Royalty in the offices of Today's book of poetry.

Rodney Nelson nodding Gwendolyn's way is a strong indicator to Today's book of poetry of the granite like base Nelson is standing on, he has built Winter in Fargo from a formidable foundation.  Perhaps his diction is from an older time, perhaps from a generation yet to come - all Today's book of poetry knows is that it is enthralling.

Snow in April

not the right look or smell to the two-week
mild but we had not wanted to let on
and when cold hit again we put out more
suet because what had only seemed to
go away could only seem to return
river upped and would be greatening
anyhow but we knew the prairie was
still in town and did not want to let on


Rodney Nelson's embrace of the natural world, his intimate interaction with the world he names still doesn't hide his history, he has seen violence, the horrors men can inflict on other men.  Yet Winter in Fargo is a celebration of a particular physical geography/and an exploration of the language of the prairie.

Rodney Nelson's Winter in Fargo is wildly entertaining restraint of the first order.

Image result for rodney nelson winter in fargo

Rodney Nelson

Rodney Nelson began as a poet long ago but turned to fiction and drama writing in order to make a living outside of the classroom.



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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Groping and Meditating on a Confusion of Shapes 
Groping and Meditating on a Confusion of Shapes 

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