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Summer Lake: New and Selected Poems (Southern Messenger Poets)

By David Huddle
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Book Details
  • Author: David Huddle
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: LSU Press
  • Published: 1999-08-01

At ease equally in poetry and prose, David Huddle is an immensely talented writer esteemed for his shrewd powers of observation, ear for authentic voices, and ability to set forth painful truth with stunning effect. Summer Lake, a beautifully coherent compilation of Huddle’s best poetry to date, chronicles one late-twentieth-century American life, disclosing the anthropology of the human spirit.

The collection opens with a plainness of language and form born of the poet’s native Blue Ridge Mountains and builds to an amalgamation of free and formal variety, including sonnets and a lengthy poem in terza rima. It pauses over vivid childhood moments, visits the wounds from a “Tour of Duty” in Vietnam, and enters into that passage of deep adulthood during which one’s parents fall ill and die. These are ordinary life events, rendered with uncanny penetration. At times the poems are openly, even angrily, despairing. When all is said and done, though, the last two lines of the book are “my mother cooking supper / my father whistling as he walked home from work.”

Huddle’s web of experiences is near to all of our own stories—the universal cycle of making our own life, raising up new lives, and letting go of those that formed ours, and the need to continually rediscover who we are in the process. The hammer Huddle’s father gave him as a child (“My Daddy, Whenever He Went Some Place”) and the one he handed him soon after Huddle’s daughter was born (“Gifts”) both made the poet cry but for different reasons. Manly, heartbreakingly human, honest—“That’s what I hate,/when my good buzz of hostility/turns into this pissy pity”—Summer Lake reveals and moves, and ultimately consoles.

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