This is Dion Farquhar’s first poetry book; five of her poems appeared in Offcourse #38 (summer ’09). She was educated in the counter-culture of the late 60s and early 70s, and she is not renouncing it: she quotes unabashedly from Janis Joplin, Deleuze and Foucault. One feels she is trying to convey that historical feeling, the fifties and the miraculous transition to the more exciting sixties, to the young who have not seen, and cannot imagine, any of that. Perhaps to her sons. It is a tall order. How do you convey a meaning to the slogan, “If it exists, it stinks,” a meaning that young people living with electronic instant world-wide communication can understand? She is quite successful when she conveys the feeling of the fifties, which in spite of the then always present radiation-shelters terror strikes us now as a time of relative innocence:
“How did we live? // I’ll tell you: // The candy was fabulous. / Something had to be.”
That is a great stanza. Farquhar looks at the fifties with an intellectual detachment which allows a feeling for small things to emerge and shine; this is not always so when she looks at the grand abstractions of more recent decades. This first book is a great achievement; we recommend it and we await her next one with gladness and hope.
This clear voice from the coal-and-railroad Pennsylvania country sounds again. Some of the poems in this attractively produced book have already appeared in two previous collections: Dark Card, reviewed by us in issue 34 (Summer ’08), and Mom’s Canoe, reviewed in #37 (Spring ’09). But enough in it is new and wonderful to be worth your ordering it at your local bookstore, or in the Web.