The Blue Buick: New and Selected Poems

This generous volume brings together work from five collections spanning over thirty years in the career of B. H. Fairchild, recipient of a National Book Critics Circle Award and a William Carlos Williams Award. Fairchild’s lucid poems vacillate between deep observation and imagination to provide a vivid cross-section of American life in the late twentieth century, whether finding the poet “In a Café Near Tuba City, Arizona, Beating [His] Head against a Cigarette Machine,” or thinking: “I am lucky, I am lucky, to live in a country / where the son of a machinist can piss away his time / writing poems.” The value of Fairchild’s verse, however, needs no defense—the titular poem, elegizing the amalgam character Roy Eldridge Garcia (“the only man my father hired again / after he showed up drunk”), is a near-thirty page epic, in which “all things seen and unseen and all kingdoms / naked in the human heart [rise] toward the sky.” Roy, a failed writer, reappears as a speaker throughout Fairchild’s oeuvre. His other new poems swell with the gravity (and occasional minutiae) of history, transporting us to a baseball game in 1946 and a warzone in Guam in the space of the same poem; the tenth anniversary of September 11th, or relaying an old story in solidarity with the Occupy movement. “This is where the story ends. And now you know, / this is also where it begins…” Fairchild is a poet of insight and wisdom.

This book review originally appeared in American Poets, Fall-Winter 2014.