To mark National Poetry Month, In other Words is being guest-edited by rob mclennan. Throughout April, rob will present the work of dozens of poets he thinks deserve readers' attention, as seen through the eyes of their fellow poets.
The snow is raging this morning. All last night I was unsettled, arguing with my ears: Is it my daughter crying softly down the hall, or the banshee wind keening at the windows? I didn't intend for this, on the day I sit down to write about Stan Dragland, but it does seem perfect.
Dragland may be more widely known for his career as an editor and literary critic than as a poet, but I'm here to tell you that man works his own magic with a wandering narrative and small but big story, the sound of a banjo and the heat of a wood fire and a bowl of salt and pepper chips for company. Can't tell a story to save my life, and I feel one coming on, he says in A Serpent's Tooth (pp. 15-18 in Stormy Weather, Pedlar Press, 2005). That begins the story of the time he nearly gave his ex-wife an axe for Christmas.
Or there's the story of singing harmony: There is something huge in this, something of love and pain and consolation beyond my capacity to say ( What'll I Do, pp. 22-26). Or the story of loneliness: You know, Ag, I always have lots going on in my mind. I'm always having a relationship with myself, a stormy one at that, positively tempestuous, and sometimes the commotion gives me the impression that I'm carrying on a relationship with someone else. ( Come All Ye, pp. 27-30).
Dragland crowds his cityscapes and interiors with history and loss and odd St. John's light fixtures and first names and the occasional belly laugh at one's one stupidity. And if that's not good poetry, I don't know what is.
Evil Days (excerpt)
I won't ever be clasping her to my breast in one of those great big bear hugs, lifting her off her feet, the two of us laughing hugely, our mouths wide open, displaying decades of dental work, her blouse freed of its tuck in her jeans giving the glimpse of midriff that drives me wild. I'll be a watcher in Newfoundland. A hesitation of my own is what keeps me outside. I'll be an observer in and of life. Too late to pretend otherwise.
-- Excerpted from Evil Days in Stormy Weather (Pedlar Press, 2005)
Photo of Stan Dragland (that's him on the guitar) by Rachel Dragland