Book Review: Good Poems, American Places

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I mean, it’s sort of a review.  And a contemplation on America and life:

I didn’t move that far away from where I grew up and yet it still feels like a different world out here some days.  Most times that’s a good thing.  The views of bouldered green hills, snowcapped mountains, and rows of citrus make me feel like I am living in Ultimate California.  Although with my former job in my home town, I hadn’t really been able to enjoy it.

Now that I’m here, I’ve been exploring Riverside in fits and starts.  Between it and Redlands, I think this corner of the world might have been made for me.  On Tuesdays, the local movie theater screens classics.  The bakery down town has the most divine cinnamon twists.  There is a British Emporium & Tea Shop and an indie bookstore called the Cellar Door just minutes from my office.  Couple that with the civil war reenactors in Redlands, that amazing red library, and the fact that I am walking to the symphony Saturday night and I am in bliss.  I’m ready to take a walk and buy oranges at the fruit stand down the street.

For my reading challenge, I bought Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems, American Places at the bookstore last night.  It’s billed as poems for those who don’t like poetry.  I’m one of those people who scoffs at poetry, and I can support his claim because I’ve been loving it.  “The world is our consolation,” Keillor says of Americans in the introduction.  “When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, we get into our car and drive.  It’s a big country.”

I was listening to someone last Saturday night tell about adventures in Uganda.  They were strange and wonderful, but I knew that it was no more than a story to me unless I somehow, by some miracle, grow deeper pockets. I am realizing while reading this collection that what I do know is America.

I know boating on a placid, icy lake to a deserted hiking spot.  I know tubing in the summer sunshine while pontoon boats rise above my head.  I know the view of the golden dome of the capital building from the high rise hotel with city lights shining brighter than stars beneath.  I know planting tomatoes in the earth in front of my semi-generic tract home, and long road trips across concrete highways.  I have seen Old Faithful burst from the ground, and I have ridden the boat to Disneyland.

The book is making me contemplative and a little melancholy, I think.  But in a good way.  There’s so much to love in this book, so many moments that I’ve also felt along with the poet.  It feels like mine in a way no other of Keillor’s Good Poems collections have.  I’m very glad I found it.

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