Here’s a line of poetry that I recently read in a fiction novel, “The birds had whispered her name at daybreak, the moment when shade mated with sun and the world was born.” The novel is Lambs of Men, by Charles Dodd White, and it is set in the 1920’s with the main character, Hiram, returning home from war to recruit other men to serve. However, Hiram becomes enmeshed in dealing with past family hurts, and the plot progresses from there, with three points of view weaved into the story. Mark Powell blurbs that White’s work is “at heart, a work of prose poetry.” I have to concur with Powell, as there are lines such as the one above throughout. The book claims to be a story about fathers and sons, and while it is about that deep and often dangerous relationship, it is also about a woman’s relationship to her sons – whether blood-sons or a man in need of mothering. True to human nature, characters in Lambs of Men make assumptions of others – in particular those they are close to by either blood or marriage – and only we, the readers, realize that these assumptions are often inaccurate.
Similar to the writing of McCarthy, and with a very rich emotional landscape, the story line propels itself much in the manner of how the story is told: steady, with a cadence of its own from which it does not break. Reading Lambs of Men can be summed up like this: it is as if I pulled up a chair on the porch of an old cabin and listened to a world-wise, older man tell me a story. He wastes no words in his language, but with skill and artistry weaves a story while packing his pipe. As he puffs away, the hours, like the smoke, slip by and before I know it the sun has set and it is time to go home, even though I want to stay right where I am.
For a poet, I read as much fiction and non-fiction as I do poetry. So it is not hard to believe that I’d be drawn to a novel that contains both in the form of prose poetry. In fact, White’s book fits well into another thought that is brewing at the moment – that Southern writers have an edge when it comes to language and the written word. But that’s for another posting. I encourage you to read White’s book, which can be found here: www.casperianbooks.com.