Dave Etter, now in his eighties, continues to write at the top of his powers. Like the irrepressible dandelions the poet admires, those flowers “of the easy, relaxed way of life,” his poems spring so naturally and easily from the page you could miss, at first, the impeccable craftsmanship, though never the keen eye, the even keener imagination.
Etter takes out a folding ruler, a pencil, and a piece of paper, poetically measures some interesting bit of conversation, then builds a poem. The results surprise. They teach us something about ourselves, about this world, and about this odd language we use. On one page a spire of two-syllable lines proceeds through the white space like mouse tracks through the snow. On another page long lines go gutter to book edge, end mirroring beginning like a syntagmatic half-pipe. The results leave you wondering, How did he do that? or Why didn’t I think of that? Most often, however, they’ll have you running to find someone with whom to share the poem.
The Yellow House, Dave Etter’s thirty-third collection, presents a dizzying variety of characters and voices, litanies and lists. Rooted in rural Illinois, the poet’s house literally stands within earshot of Main Street while providing a view across the railroad tracks to where the prairie breeze rustles the corn in the fields outside of town. The day-to-day blues, the bitter-sweet pangs of sex and mortality, the down-to-earth joys of small town, USA – it’s all here. Who’d ever think a small town could be this large?
No matter how you’ve arrived at The Yellow House, don’t pass by. The welcome mat is out, the gate door open. Come on up to the porch for a lemonade or a scotch. Come on, Etter insists!
Purchase from Red Dragonfly Press: The Yellow House ($15; free shipping)
Dave Etter is the author of thirty-three books of poetry. He has published his poems in numerous American and foreign magazines, anthologies, and textbooks and his work has been translated into German, Polish, and Japanese. Among his awards are the Carl Sandburg, Society of Midland Authors, Theodore Roethke (from Poetry Northwest), Illinois Sesquicentennial, and Chicagoland magazine prizes. Etter’s Alliance, Illinois and Sunflower County poems have been performed on stage by college, high school, and little theater groups throughout Illinois. He lives in Lanark, Illinois, with his wife, Peggy, and a handsome male cat named Georgie, who has become the heart and soul of their house on East Locust Street.