Fiddle Lane (Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction)

Carper, Thomas

Published by Johns Hopkins University Press
ISBN 10: 0801842697 / ISBN 13: 9780801842696
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Synopsis: In "Fiddle Lane" Thomas Carper presents sixty-five poems, all written in traditional forms-- most of them sonnets-- which treat subjects ranging from the creation of the world to the pleasures and trials of growing up. Although his focus is often on the personal and the local, Carper's poems transcend their immediate topics in ways that speak directly to the eternal concerns of the human heart. In one poem, a boy's tormented, guilty dreams keep him "revolving painfully on the spit of sleep." In another, an ailing mother, "the ruin of her mind... infinite," recites poetry she learned as a schoolgirl for a son she does not recognize. A small child loses her beloved brother to death. With varying degrees of reluctance, youths undergo rites of passage that include hunting, football practice, J-stripping, and ice-skating. ("Life will be like this," one observes). Other poems draw on stories from Hebrew, Greek, and Hindu creation myths. And familiar lines from well-known poets are woven together in a humorous poem that satirizes dust jacket blurbs ("An unbarbaric yawp."-- Walt Whitman). Carper also offers thoughts on people who "do" things for a living that are slightly (or greatly) out of the ordinary: from an ominous "Dump Man" with a penchant for neatness to a kazoo maker written up in the New York Times, from a former concentration-camp guard who protests his innocence to a poet who, jogging, reflects on "the way life is an uphill-downhill matter/ And how it can be told of in iambics." Birth and death, the joy and woe of marriage, coming of age and remaining forever a child-- these and other timeless topics are given new voice in these memorable poems linked by Thomas Carper'sunshakable "faith that we have something yet to share/ Though all the universe's atoms move/ Toward regions desolate of human love."

Review:

A superb technician, Carper manages the demanding form with an ease, a late-20th-century naturalness, that can cause a reader to forget that the flowing, witty experience he is enjoying is happening in a tight formal structure that dates from the late Middle Ages... These sonnets flow, so well in fact that once inside the poem readers must slow themselves down to catch the comedy, feel the lightness, the pathos, the wit. The poet won't do it for you, and that is the mark of his skill.

(Kennebec)

Especially for those who enjoy metrical and traditional verse, Carper's collection of poems... should prove a real treasure trove.

(Maine Sunday Telegram)

Carper's formal poems (mostly sonnets) give an outward order to inward wounds and wonders.

(Beloit Poetry Journal)

Poetic forms never die, but there are periods in which they become difficult to use effectively. Until I discovered Thomas Carper's work, I had considered the contemporary American sonnet a half-moribund form, a vehicle one might use—at some risk—for an individual poem but not as the foundation for an entire oeuvre. But Carper has transfigured this problematic inheritance into an exciting, investigative form. With unusual skill and intelligence, Carper has brought curiosity and surprise back to the sonnet.

(Dana Gioia)

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Fiddle Lane (Johns Hopkins: Poetry and ...
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Binding: PAPERBACK
Book Condition: Very Good

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