November 30, 2008

Review by Robert Cooperman

by Ellaraine Lockie

PWJ Publishing
P.O. Box 238
Tehama, CA 96090
ISBN 0-939221-45-4
2008, 64 pp., $12.00

For a chapbook consisting of poems that all won first-place prizes in various contests, Blue Ribbons at the County Fair hangs together remarkably well. There’s a logical progression to the collection, beginning with personal poems about Ms. Lockie’s native Montana and the hardscrabble life of her farmer father, and progressing more and more outward into the world, with poems about her own marriage, her children, sexual infidelity, and into world events and situations, sometimes recent horrific ones.

“Godot Goes to Montana” opens the collection, and about the only objection I have to this marvelous poem is that I really hate the title, which seems a tad too literary and precious for its subject matter. Other than that, this is a powerful piece of work, opening with detailing what can go wrong in the precarious life of a farmer: “My farmer father waited to see/if crops would hail out or dry up.” The poem, further, is not without a sense of humor and even more important, a sense of hope, since it’s been noted on more than one occasion that farmers have to be the most optimistic people in the world. So despite all the back-breaking manual labor, the hideous accidents that men who work around dangerous equipment fall victim to, and a grandfather who hanged himself out of despair , there’s a sense of earned camaraderie and good cheer by the end of the poem: “To eat fresh sourdough doughnuts/To chew the fat of their existence.”

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