Circle of Stones: A Place and Its Story
Poems by Joe Paddock
This large collection of narrative poems, 300 pages, has been many years in the making and draws on the oral history work undertaken by poet Joe Paddock in his home town of Litchfield, Minnesota. “By sticking fast where [he was], like an axis of earth,” to use a venerable line of Emerson’s, Joe Paddock has created a midwestern masterwork.
Praise for Circle of Stones:
Joe, I’d glanced through “Circle of Stones” before, and read a few poems, but yesterday afternoon I sat down and read it all the way through. I hadn’t planned it that way; I thought I’d just read a few poems, because the continuous screaming of the wind through the dry woods outside was getting on my nerves, and I wanted something to settle me. But once I was into the book, I was hooked, I could not put it down.
I laughed inordinately. A couple of times I wept. Occasionally I was even jealous.
This is just a magnificent book, Joe. I admire the ambition of it, the willingness to speak of grand things. So many poets have taken the idea of “write about what you know” far too literally.
And just when you think the poet is getting a little too grand, maybe even pompous, the reader is back with the pigs and dogs and small-town humor of Meeker County.
The earlier poems which you’ve embedded shine even more grandly (and sometimes take on more resonance) in a new frame.
I’m struck by how free you were as a child (as I was, as John was, as our children were) to wander and explore. Hardly any children have that freedom today. The terror of stranger abduction has made jailors out of parents.
And reading about the plane ride with “Whiskey Jack” reminded me of all those afternoons when I was eleven or so, and my father was working on getting his commercial pilot’s license. He would be going out to practice aerobatics in the Piper J-3 we then co-owned. (Named “Betsy”, as I recall.) Daddy would say, “Edie, do you want to be my sandbag?” Meaning that, flying from the front seat of a tandem two-seater, he would want either weight or a passenger in the back seat.
– Edith Rylander, poet and author
This is a fan letter. I have read Circle of Stones and was thoroughly caught up in it. It’s moving, amusing, evocative, inspiring— Well, the adjectives flow on. Brought tears, laughter and memories along with new insights and ways of looking at people, places and things. Reading it does a person good.
– Carole Wendt, retired writer for NBC
I read right through Circle of Stones, a few poems every night. Wonderful stories. You’ve done mythic service for your hometown–and the rest of us.
– Bart Sutter, poet and author
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