NORTH CAROLINA L I T E R A R Y RE V I E W
RESTORING FADED GLORY a review by Jeanne Julian David E. Poston. Slow of Study. Charlotte, NC: Main Street Rag, 2015. JEANNE JULIAN is the author of the chapbook, Blossom and Loss (Longleaf Press, 2015). Kakalak, Naugatuck River Review, Poetry Quarterly, and other journals have published her poems. Her poetry has won awards sponsored by The Comstock Review, the North Carolina Poetry Society, the Asheville Writers’ Workshop, and Carteret Writers. She has an MFA in fiction from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and has reviewed books for The Historical Journal of Massachusetts.
PHOTOGRAPH BY PAUL REALI; COURTESY OF CHARLOTTE CENTER FOR THE LITERARY ARTS
DAVID E. POSTON lives in Gastonia, NC, and taught for thirty years in public schools and at UNC Charlotte. His work has been widely anthologized and has appeared in various journals, including Asheville Poetry Review, English Journal, and Iodine Poetry Journal. He is the author of My Father Reading Greek (Union County Writers, 1999) and Postmodern Bourgeois Poetaster Blues (North Carolina Writers’ Network, 2007), which won the 2007 Randall Jarrell /Harper Prints Chapbook Competition.
ABOVE David E. Poston reading at the Charlotte Center for the Literary Arts, Charlotte, NC, Jan. 2016
David E. Poston’s third poetry collection, Slow of Study, pays homage to his North Carolina roots. Landscapes in the poems are derived from real places familiar to many Tarheels: Looking Glass Mountain in the Blue Ridge in “Frost,” Bryson City in “Road to Nowhere, Bryson City, NC,” Highway 7 in “Fartlek,” “the Charlotte banking towers” in “Dear Grandma.” Poston explores not only North Carolina’s literal landscape, but also the figurative, in the ongoing tension between Old South values and New Age culture. Scanning Poston’s titles, you immediately detect, if not a vacillation, then a waltz, between the sacred and the profane. The first poem, after all, is “What Would Jesus Drive?” And he begins another poem, “Loosely Translated from a Japanese Movie, or So I Thought,” with the line “last name Zilla, first name God.” Poston gracefully dances between narrative poems that lead to meditations and lyrics that melt into questions. In four sections, his religious references do–si–do with pop culture. He honors both poetic forebears (William Carlos Williams, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Shakespeare) and tragic ironies in “May 35th”: “at the very moment I began to speak / the tanks were rolling through the Gate of Heavenly Peace.” There is irony, too, in the title of the book. Being “slow of study” is typically considered a negative trait – in school (the cover illustration is a photograph of a classroom in 1964) and beyond. However, for writers, being slow of study is an asset. The careful poet takes his or her time, slowly examining detail, nuance, mystery, relationships, ideas, before interpreting them in words. This approach is positively Poston. And yet, the first three
sections of Slow of Study convey an urgency that is far from slow: fleeing, driving, running, spinning. In the last poem, the poem of the book’s title, the reader finally is asked to “remain.” The book’s first section is haunted by images of gospel and family, redolent of a Southern boyhood and a Southern literary tradition. Poston evokes the claustrophobia of small-town life. Here there is “the ragged possum boy”: drops of his blood, from an unknown affliction, shine on the “palm–smooth floor” of the church on Sunday morning. The luminous spirit of a wise Granny appears to teach the boy in “Water Lily” “a song for walking.” In “Lightning”a man struck (unconscious or dead, it’s not clear which) by lightning is surrounded by an almost ghoulish congregation, a crowd with “fever in / their eyes.” Poston alerts us to the exaltation and fear inherent in the promise of salvation in “The Word”: “not knowing as I felt that glory tide / course through me once again / how I would miss it / when it ebbed away.” But ultimately, it is humans who abandon the glory, not vice versa. The first section ends with two poems on the theme of departure, and one of those is distinctly inglorious: a teacher absconds with sixty thousand dollars of “the deacon’s money” in “Four Ways to Leave Town.” And so we are launched from childhood reminiscence into the second section, which naturally moves into an exploration of coming-of-age – or, as it is phrased in “All Over America,” the process of “becoming” throughout our lives. The poem “Uses of Infinity” ends in suspense: “as our lives spin, / spin, outward and outward / and” – and with that last word, the poem ends, with no period. What is to become of us, in our experiences on both
North Carolina Literary Review is published annually by East Carolina University with additional funding from the North Carolina Literary an...