cover of book

Gust: Poems
by Greg Alan Brownderville
Northwestern University Press, 2011
Paper: 978-0-8101-5221-2 | eISBN: 978-0-8101-6561-8
Library of Congress Classification PS3602.R728G87 2011
Dewey Decimal Classification 811.6

Irresistible in its color and momentum, Greg Alan Brownderville's debut collection explores the competing mysticisms of his boyhood: the Voudou of his native Arkansas Delta and the Pentecostalism embodied by his devil-hunting pastor, Brother Langston. On the one hand, "gust" sonically suggests "ghost," and wind is a metaphor for inspiration and the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, "gust" suggests urge and pleasure, especially of the gastronomic variety, thus evoking the body. 

Brownderville commands the complex eloquence of Southerners who love not only local color but also high-flown rhetoric. Instead of reinforcing stereotypes about rural folks' thought and speech, he challenges our assumptions by presenting real life as a festival of mixed diction. Church, as Brownderville enacts it, both quickens and forbids the erotic, whose lightning flashes and crashes everywhere in these poems. Highlights include a press conference with a bizarrely poetic rural sheriff, a Zimbabwean meter never before employed in English, a rock and roll song interrupted by a Walmart intercom, and poems about the exploitation of Italians in Arkansas cotton fields. 

At once evoking Yeats and Whitman, Gust recovers the dramatic mode often neglected in contemporary American poetry. Brownder­ville's uncanny lyricism storms through stories that are both moving and humorous.

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