by Kate Croxton
The Artist in Residence program at the University of West Georgia is known for hosting
exciting events that allow musicians, authors, and other artists to perform. Award
winning poet Dr. B. H. Fairchild recently visited and read from his latest publication,
“The Blue Buick.”
Professor of English Dr. Chad Davidson was a former student of Dr. Fairchild and welcomed him to Kathy Cashen Hall. Dr. Davidson explained that Dr. Fairchild was a big inspiration for him, and he would not be who he is today without his teacher.
Dr. Davidson briefly covered some of Dr. Fairchild’s awards and fellowships, which included the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the Rockefeller and Guggenheim fellowships, and Dr. Fairchild being a finalist for the National Book Award.
Dr. Fairchild read a wide selection of poems from his book, opening with “Body and Soul,” a true story about a 15-year-old Mickey Mantle playing against a team of World War II veterans. Frustration and anger were central themes of the poem since the older men were losing to a teenager. This bitterness ran deep since these men had just returned from the war, and they were working in zinc mines and oilrigs. The poem was speckled with various references and metaphors, such as Chesterfield cigarettes and V-Day.
Dr. Fairchild’s soothing voice and practiced pauses captured everyone’s attention, especially during his comedic poem, “What He Said.” This poem focused on the feeling everybody gets when they should have said something witty or smart during a particular moment. He explained “we all deserve that one line” that would “make the other person drop to the ground in shame.” Dr. Fairchild’s humor came forth when a high school friend stands up to a bully who is teasing him about his love for actress Bridget Bardot and described the moment as “we are, at last, redeemed.”
Dr. Fairchild read from a few of his other poems, such as “Language Nonsense Desire,” “Delivering Eggs to the Girls’ Dorm,” and “Luck.” However, it was his ending poem “Beauty” that absorbed the audience.
Dr. Fairchild warned everyone that before he began reading “Beauty,” he was going to make everyone stand up, breathe, “forget everything about literary criticism,” and go back to a time of nostalgia and childhood. He explained to the crowd that the poem meant a lot to him and featured many different themes and metaphors. He also mentioned that he did not now where the poem was going or how it was going to end; the poem told him what it was about and even added an unintentional metaphor.
The eight-page poem mainly took place in his father’s machine shop, which was in the Dust Bowl in Kansas, but it began and ended with Dr. Fairchild and his wife in Florence, Italy, looking at Donatello’s “David” statue in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello. The poem makes several references to the Great Dome in Florence, the Kennedy assassination, Marlon Brando, and oil field equipment. It was broken into four different parts and talked about the “inner sense of the violent character.”
The hour-long reading was periodically interrupted by laughter from the audience, but the overall observation was directed towards Dr. Fairchild. At the end of “Beauty,” the room burst into applause for several moments as Dr. Fairchild walked off stage.
Dr. Fairchild’s other works include “The Arrival of the Future,” “Local Knowledge,” “The Art of the Lathe,” “Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest,” and “Usher.”