All is not well among villagers in 'Prairie Fever'
With time in graduate school at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she earned her Ph.D. in English, Mary Biddinger would know what a prairie is. In Prairie Fever, her collection of poems, she uses bucolic imagery like ''red-wing blackbirds,'' ''Riverside, selling spring peas/and bulbs. Last year's honey/wax candles.''
But all is not right here. These aren't pastoral poems delighting in nature; they're set in a muddy town of drunken fights (''bar stools brandished like stilettos'') and arson (''the sulfur lingered in her fingertips''). Most shocking, in The Edge of Town, a 14-year-old girl and her friends see a man's body in the river and poke it with sticks to make it float away. ''Prairie Gothic'' may be the style.
Biddinger, an assistant professor at the University of Akron, is the new editor for the Akron Series in Poetry at the University of Akron Press. Prairie Fever (85 pages, softcover) costs $12 from http://www.steeltoebooks.com, at Western Kentucky University. -- Lynne Sherwin, Akron Beacon Journal, April 27, 2008