Spring Garden: New and Selected Poems by Fred Chappell

This is one of my favorite books of poetry.  I love it because Fred Chappell is a local author, and often his imagery includes places that I know — such as Walker Avenue (mentioned in this book) or the mountains of Western North Carolina (the setting of some of his novels).  I don’t claim to have read this Spring_garden book from cover to cover.  I don’t have the attention span for that.  I just keep coming back to this book from time to time and finding another gorgeous work of art that is one of his poems inside.  Each time I return to the book, I reread the poems that I have read before, savor them — greet them like old friends and smile.  Then I seek out a few new poems to enjoy.  I may finish this book one day, but what’s the rush?  Chappell’s poems have such rich and glorious imagery in them with allusions to things academic sprinkled throughout.  But don’t think he’s snooty about his knowledge. No. He brings the real world that everyone knows into his poems and intertwines it with those allusions to things some of us will never study — juxtaposing the erudite with the universal. Not only that, but his mischievous sense of humor breaks up seemingly serious subjects throughout.   Spring Garden is like a “greatest hits” of Fred Chappell because it includes poems from six of his previous collections plus 30 new poems.  You know how you can play a song over and over again on a CD because you just can’t get enough of it?  Well, that is how I feel about the poem “Narcissus and Echo” that is in this collection.  I have never seen a poem crafted in the manner of this one, sort of a poem within a poem.  And the imagery, the rhythm and feeling of it when read aloud leave me in awe — spellbound.

(Heidi Schachtschneider, Information Services)

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