Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Brian Blanchfield: A Master of Poetic Intrigue and Inventiveness

by Lisa Teberg

Brian Blanchfield, the 2008-2009 Richard Hugo Fellow in Poetry at the University of Montana, possesses the courage to invite readers into the intimate details of his life. I confess that I didn’t give Blanchfield’s poetry adequate reverence before attending his reading. I respected the revealing nature of his poetry, but I didn’t feel an emotional connection until I heard him read and explain his work.

Blanchfield’s poems contain intriguing anecdotes and vivid imagery. "Letter To A Silvery Mime in Yellow," entwines the reader in his description of a mime in the subways of New York:

The sunniness signs on you somewhat more than silver did,
but these passers through carry pantries of selves along, miss
the pouring parasol, and think advertisements about you.

Blanchfield forces the reader to engage with the mime adorned in silver and yellow.

Similarly, Blanchfield devised a poem titled, "Velma." He presents his subject as:

The sweatered, squat one, remember, with glasses,
iterator of the dog’s doings, the dopehead’s score,
swiped often, but sound and blinking by episode’s
every end.

It’s not often that cartoon characters thrive in the stanzas of poetry. Yet, Blanchfield’s imaginative imagery puts Velma into our mind’s-cartoon-eye with her orange turtleneck, brunette bob, and keen detective demeanor.

Blanchfield’s poetic inventiveness is a continual process. During his reading, he provided our eager ears with excerpts from his current writing. These poems are inspired from a book titled, The Dictionary of the History of Ideas. He opens with an epilogue including a definition from the dictionary and follows with a poem. There is no doubt that these will be published in a celebrated collection.

I encourage poetry enthusiasts and even those merely curious about poetry to attend a reading given by Brian Blanchfield. If not, at least pick up a copy of Not Even Then and treat yourself to an inspiring read.

* * * * * *

Lisa Teberg is a post-baccalaureate student studying Creative Writing at the University of Montana.

Not Even Then
Brian Blanchfield
81 pages
Paper back, $17.95
University of California Press, April 2004.

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