Jesse Graves: Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine

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Y loss and strength Jessie Graves Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine reveals an intuitive introspective which presents the influence of surroundings to show reflections of human relationships Within Graves poetry he develops connections between people ancestors landscapes and environments In the first poem of the collection Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine introduces the reader to the speaker s exploration of these connections Here the reader becomes familiar with the dichotomy that exists when faced with the joy of nature while at the same time being reminded of loss Graves in this poem as in many of his other poems in this collection expresses these same concepts when he explores the relationships between the speaker and relatives both past and present Through Graves poetry the reader experiences various landscapes geographies and conditions The reader experience surroundings that are beautiful threatening fleeting and bewildering and in turn they echo the speaker s emotions in the moment Graves through the natural world communicates life experiences and express a connection not only to the land but to the history of the people who once called this land home The speaker watches as the pine of the landscape is destroyed by billon tiny teeth Of the blight Leaving orange skeletons standing over variegated shadows Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine 43 45 As the speaker becomes a witness to history he expresses a realization about how the only evidence that the now extinct Chestnut trees once grew throughout this land is found in Floorboards and ceiling joists finally grained paneling In the old houses and that this provides the only proof that an existence Once so sturdy could vanish Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine 51 53 The speaker follows this with another reflection So many years ago a man toiled here clearing and reaping the barest life Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine 55 The speaker sets the haunting tone that repeats throughout the book stating The dead move through us at their will their voices chime Just beyond our hearing How else do we feel our names when no one speaks them Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine 63 65 Graves reveals his talent for describing surroundings to also demonstrate a immediate awareness of people and events His reflections of nature in many of his poems make a connection to the relationships the speaker experiences now rather than a longing for a connection to ancestors of the past For example in Wrightsville Beach the speaker describes an early morning walk where Shells the size of baseballs pock marked the sand their uneven curves preserved one of which cuts the speaker s heel resulting in taking the shell home and now it sits harmless on my desk beside a picture of you 9 10 15 16 The speaker then states I wonder if I could find your name written between hymns to Rilke and the Red Sox in my misplaced journal in those seaside days Wrightsville Beach 17 19 On the other hand Graves sometimes creates synthetic environments such as the one described in The Night Caf North Rendon New Orleans when Graves describes a bar with Most of the tables leaned vacantly against their chairs The walls exhaling a low shade of green 4 5 Graves takes the reader on an entertaining and melancholy trip of days gone by The themes of connection and loss continue through poems like these These two poems demonstrate many of Graves other poems where his immediate past faces the same threats as his ancestors The speaker laments in The Night Caf North Rendon New Orleans that for all of their reminiscing Recorded beneath swirls of smoke at a bar on North Rendon that the speaker and his friends do this In the hope of thereby preserving from decay the remembrance 25 26 Graves book is delightfully reminiscent and insightful In Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine the reader becomes familiar with an author who is genuinely appreciative of various landscapes as expressed throughout his poetry and connects the reader to his perspective as an individual Graves brings such awareness to the connection between people and their surroundings and this makes this book relatable and an enjoyable read It s hard to review a book of poetry so I ll just say I enjoyed this collection Jesse Graves love for the land and his family is in every lin. Nce let them take you where they will” ­­­Jeff Daniel Marion“Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine is than an extraordinary first book These poems have the music wisdom and singular voice of a talent fully realized and make abundantly clear that Jesse Graves is one of America’s finest young poets” Ron Ra.

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F this connection to the land and his father While the two bond in the second stanza the poem is centered around these generational shifts and loss of connection Both themes seen in this poem aid in the recognition of rural Appalachian life and the contrasting relationship between the speaker and his father The speaker lacks the nowledge and love that his father has for the farmland Both come to terms with this lack of connection I can find in his face what he reads about the future in the tea colored water his eyes and mine trying to avoid it 26 8 The son realizes his father s love and devotion to the land after it is too late to mend the connection with his father Now at the end of the poem we see both men avoiding the apprehension between them Dance and Cultural Diversity knowing that there will always be a loss of connection to the land as each generation passes Graves explains a different understanding of familial relationships and connections to the land through his poem Digging the Pond He captures a view of life that is not formally understood or recognized but his descriptions of these themes allow readers to realize the different ways of Appalachian life This allows for a different understanding and exploration of family life and the ways generational shifts can slowly create a divide within the family unit I want to be fair in my assessment of Blighted Pine as I am not a huge poetry fan I believe real poetry fans will find it likable and well written Personally if I m going to read poetry I want to really be moved by it Sadly this collection did not move me I was raised on a farm and understand getting down to my roots but poems like Elegy for a Hay Rake do not inspire me So a 25 from me and a 3 star Goodreads rating I was introduced to the poetry of Jesse Graves when I attended a reading where he was paired with a novelist and another poet I was struck by the lyrical softness of his language even though his poetry covered all the hard edges of Appalachia the landscape the fading architecture of farms the people I wanted to buy his book that day but alas I was broke so when I got home I ordered the collectionTennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine was worth the wait From its title the book instantly suggests that Graves collection is going to be a work of Appalachian literature and yes many of the poems do evoke a strong sense of place The opening poem For the Frozen Wood is a poem written in pantoum form and with its repeating line scheme the reader is drawn into a world that changes but somehow comes full circle Graves poems are littered with farms and backroads ponds and forests Many of his works contain a persona grappling with his place in a world where relationships are evolving and places are changing My favorite poem in the whole collection is Digging the Pond where a young boy watches his father He can name every species of tree wild rootthe compounds of the soil in every fieldandnows that I stood off to the side too oftento learn what he was born Navigating Japan's Business Culture: A Practical Guide to Succeeding in the Japanese Market knowingIn many ways this is a collection of journeys Several poems contain the metaphor of travel through roadtrips For instance one poem St Paul tells the story of a young boy traveling with a favorite uncle who spoke to his young nephew like I might actuallynow somethingwhich none of the other grown ups did Another poem the almost bittersweet Detroit Muscle tells a narrative of a young man who works diligently on a car and then takes it for a spin I lost it the front tire slipped the road and I wentspinning one ditch swallowed me up and spit me straightinto the other and I landed upside down in a tobacco fieldwondering where the road went and why I wasn t on it While many of these poems stick close to the narrator s home others wander elsewhere sometimes traveling to the Finger Lakes region in New York state sometimes traveling to LouisianaAll in all Graves book is collections of human histories steeped in landscape In his world you can read about young boys who ick up devil s snuff in the back woods of their homes and a fisherman who hopes for a bite from a fish who wouldn t take a red wormif it swam into their suction cup mouths In his world you venture into the past through both tangible photographs and abstract memories With other poems you venture into a fast fading rural landscape that has scars of both famil. Essor in the Department of Literature and Language  I admire the assurance the formal authority of Graves’ craft Robert Morgan“Here is a welcome new voice offering strengths in craftsmanship and music but always grounded in a profound sense of place Read these poems for their wisdom listen closely to their cade.

Well wrought language paints a soothing pastoral meditation woven throughout this collection One of the best poetry books I have read this year or ever An authentic voice echoes through the Appalachian Mountains and settles deep within the valleys Highly recommend Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pines is a collection of poems by Jesse Graves that deals with a single voice over the course of this voice s life while gr A fine and mature collection One of my favorite poets Very much poetry of a certain place you can feel rural Tennessee in every poem even when the poet is away from home and just pining for itHa pine Unintentional punMy favorites were focused on emotion than nature detail such as EmissariesMy hands eep their own remembranceburied in fine grooves of flesh Time and the Motions Our Bodies MadeWe danced whether we believed in the lyrics or not because the rhythm turned us into ancientciphers in control of time but surrendered in bodyto ritual movement it protected us from the specterof parents how our lives could evolve into theirs This is southern poetry done right As a southerner in grad school in the PNW fellow Louisianaian Yusef Komunyakaa s Magic City was the only collection of poems that truly fed my homesickness Graves now shoulders some of that load Narrative without being too hemhawish flooded with river and lake and hickory and oak and pine and fish and fallow and harvest and work and about 20 other things that remind me of home it s poetry concerned with the present and future with decay and loss and all of it informed by the past informed by something unknowable hunkering in inherited bone and blood Jesse Graves explores the different concepts of growing up in rural Appalachian Tennessee in his book Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine The themes of familial relationships and connection to the land and farm play a significant role in understanding the ways of life for those living in the Appalachian South In Graves poem Digging the Pond both themes are described within the poem detailing the views of life through generational shifts In the beginning of the poem there is an instant connection between the speaker s father and the land He pushed and dug and cut through scrub pines like they were tall blades of grass dragged orange clay from under the topsoil 4 6 Not only does the speaker see the connection his father has with the land but also to the work his father does for the family This gains the respect of the speaker making this section a metaphor for the speaker s respect for his father and the land The second stanza of the poem explains the relationship the speaker has with his father Graves describes this relationship through the activities that the father and son bond through At thirteen I mostly stood back and waited for rocks to lug into the nearest gulley sinking in my hands under the cool mud so long buried the runoff from two ridges we found an arrowhead the first day and envisioned bone shards and lead slugs 7 12Throughout the poem the bond between them seems tense and distracted because of their generational differences however in this stanza the two have a connection with the land and the ability to work together to find remnants of the past The speaker describes a constant separation between the father and the son but in this stanza the speaker uses the term we to denote this connection between himself and his father The last stanza of the poem explicitly details the generational shifts between the speaker and his father and the exploration the speaker has with himself to fully understand the importance his father has with the farmland He can name every species of tree wild root the compounds of the soil in every field and An Unsafe Haven knows that I stood off to the side too often to learn what he was bornnowing The doing and the undoing 21 25In this stanza the son seems envious of his father and the connections he has with the land We can clearly see the generational shifts between the two in this final stanza based on the father s connection to the land and the son s adoration for his father s talents The speaker stood off to the side too often to learn what he was born nowing 23 4 This explains the lack of connection the speaker has with the farmland Graves writes of the doing and the undoing which signifies the loss Jesse Graves was born and raised in Sharps Chapel Tennessee where his ancestors settled in the 1780s  His poems and essays have appeared in Prairie Schooner Southern uarterly Connecticut Review and other journals anthologies and collections He teaches at East Tennessee State University where he is an Assistant Prof.