For Richard Sommer the business of a poem is not to persuade to the truth of an idea or to generalize on experience, but to play with the facts of experience and to play one idea against another. An evocative collection, these are poems that offer, in a variety of emotional ranges, a deep sense of the connections between inter human experience, artistic expression, and the natural world. Sommer serves as a volunteer game warden in the Eastern Townships of Quebec during poaching season, a dangerous, but for him, necessary, undertaking. Fawn Bones is, in part, the result of a poet standing between nature and lawlessness.
About the author
Richard Sommer taught myth and poetry at Montreal's Concordia University for many years, served three decades as a volunteer game warden in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and led a citizens' environmental group in a seven-year battle, ultimately successful, to save the Townships' Pinnacle Mountain from developers. Sommer's previous books include Homage to Mr. Macmullin, Blue Sky Notebook, left hand mind, Milarepa, The Other Side of Games, Selected and New Poems, Fawn Bones, and The Shadow Sonnets. In 2004, Sommer was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and the verse journal, Cancer Songs, has been an important part of his response to this challenge. He lives on a dirt road outside Frelighsburg with his wife of more than forty years, dance improvisationalist, teacher and artist Victoria Tansey. They have three grown children, three grandchildren, and currently three cats.
Excerpt: Fawn Bones (by (author) Richard Sommer)
Early morning grey mountain fog thickens down over November field grass
out past a white and brown clump of stillness aging men, four of us,
trudge towards. Our boots soak. This is our job.
Slim neck, long head stretch out among the last green blades
she came to graze upon. Last night they got her with
car, light, gun, left her here under fine rain
its tiny drops now glowing poised at each hair's end.
From the curve of her soft nape, a little blood
Her eyes are still brown and wide fixed on nothing.
I stand facing her belly's cream fur whorled
around four pink nipples fawns have sucked.
I grip one ankle We drag her across meadow,
grunting swing her up into a muddy pickup bed,
wherein two wardens shall convey her, lift her off
onto a stack of other does, a hundred, maybe.
Back on patrol, Stan beside me behind steamed glasses
thinks his own. Now my hands are on cold steering wheel,
my breath admits in a catch of pain what I still carry away,
still feel: through wet glove tendons and the bones
exact shape, exact sensation in palm and fingers
as the slim ankle of a lean young girl,
a touch lingering for days (and nights) as if love left it there,
in my right hand, this hand, here.
“Sommer's poems often yoke disparate ideas together in ways that are subtle and elusive. He is most effective when firmly rooted in flesh and blood. In one poem he suggests commemorating the highway deaths of animals by putting up little cardboard signs stating "ANIMAL DEATH HERE," until the highways are littered with them. In another poem the speaker and a woman examine their bodies and converse intimately, not sexually; an epiphany links flesh to earth in a fashion reminiscent of the Metaphysical poets:
I have smelled your skin in the sun itself striking earth and entering. Our conversation ended itself this way, in natural grace and deep sensing. And, of course, never ends.”