Beer-Battered Squirrel (‘n’ Dumplings)

Turning Point Books, the publisher of my first collection A Talent for Sadness, is an imprint of WordTech Communications in Cincinnati. WordTech’s various imprints have published well-known poets like Robert Hass, Allison Joseph, and Rachel Hadas, as well as many emerging writers. Their monthly e-newsletter keeps us all up-to-date on one another’s readings and book reviews.

That’s where I discovered Richard Newman’s memorable poem “Wild Game“, from his collection Borrowed Towns (Word Press, 2005). “Wild Game” was featured on Garrison Keillor’s NPR broadcast The Writer’s Almanac on June 22 and can be read on their website. In this poem, the narrator reminiscences about his great-grandma Lizzie, whose scandalized in-laws were unable to polish away her zesty backwoods ways. I appreciate Newman’s use of the sonnet, that highbrow and tightly controlled form, to symbolize and poke fun at their containment efforts:

…It wasn’t that her wildness was tamed—
Lizzie used the finishing they taught her
to sneak the savagery in under their noses.

Roast haunch of venison, roast possum
with cranberry sauce, hare pie, quail on toast
points, merckle turtle stew, and the most
famous dish of all: cherry blossom
gravy, dumplings, and beer-battered squirrel.

Read the whole poem here .

Also in the WordTech newsletter, I enjoyed Meredith Davies Hadaway’s “Hall of Records“, an honorable mention winner in the 2010 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Prize for Poetry. Her book The River is a Reason is forthcoming from Word Press next year. They also published her first collection, Fishing Secrets of the Dead, in 2005.

Somewhere in a strange city,
my father cradled me in one arm while
gesticulating to the man in charge of records:

a birth—to write it down.

He’d always said we should go back there.
As if it proved that once and far away
we’d been part of the same enterprise.

The 2010 Tor House first-prize winner, Jude Nutter’s “Legacy“, is also amazing, as is every poem of hers that I’ve read. See her 2005 first-prize entry in the Winning Writers War Poetry Contest here .

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