Gary Gildner’s poems possess us quietly, with vivid, heartfelt tales of mountain landscape, family, and friends. Deeply human, ever compassionate, he can feel so close to a character as to speak for her, as in an ambitious sequence of a nun who recalls her past. Gildner engages us with an ear tuned to the music of the line and to the speech of his beloved West, authentic and as fresh as mountain air.
Calling from the Scaffold is a collection of poems about connecting and not connecting—of approaching the brink of connecting. It’s about paying tribute and salvaging and gratitude. The voices vary in their longings: we hear from men and women, the young and no longer young. Nature often is there to help them out. The poet, also a writer of fiction and nonfiction, is interested in story, in his characters’ ability to move down the road, searching for their best selves, best home, putting together the pieces that move them toward that famous happy ending.
Calling from the Scaffold, Gary Gildner’s ninth book of poems, finds our poet full of the fearless wit and good cheer that we have come to treasure from him. In thirty new poems—lean, lyrical, narrative-forward, crisp as mountain rivers—he traces the contours of memory, family, love, and loss. Here are rodeos and black-and-white movies, Western owls and the haunted ‘dun-colored hallways’ of schools and family homes—a wide landscape of familiar scenes deepened, made strangely true again, through the poet’s masterful art. Reading a Gary Gildner poem is like ‘a good rain [that] rinses the garden.’
Gary Gildner is the author of nearly two dozen poetry collections and works of prose and professor emeritus of English at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Among the many awards Gildner has received for his poetry and short stories are the Robert Frost Fellowship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, two National Endowment Fellowships, five Yaddo Fellowships, the MacDowell Colony Fellowship, and the William Carlos Williams Prize.