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Red Car Goes By
Selected Poems: 1955-2000
Jack Collom
$15
520 pages
ISBN 1-931157-01-4

 

The publication date (November 8, 2001) of Red Car Goes By coincides with the date of Jack Collom's birthday. There is no poet who is more gleefully inventive, and none who has more thoroughly and meticulously fostered poetry as a way of life. Six people were involved in choosing the poems for the volume: Reed Bye, Clark Coolidge, Larry Fagin, Merrill Gilfillan, Lyn Hejinian, and Jack Collom himself.

Collom rejects the notion that a distinction is to be made between the quotidian and the poetic. There is poetry everywhere. But to find poetry everywhere means that one is incessantly engaged with the world at the level of poetry. The result is a dance between fierce notation and ceilingless song.

Like any volume that encompasses a lifetime of writing, this is a volume of themes and variations. Among the themes are three of particular prominence: the experience of love, the nature of time, and the problem of our role on earth.

Love, as Collom demonstrates, puts us in the world. It is the mode of a maximal commitment to living a life. This is, by definition, a life in time. Time is the origin, not the obstacle to experience. But this milieu is not without fragility. Humans waste time just as they waste the planet. It is in protesting this that Collom's lyric poetry is also what he calls an ecological poetry.

For writers of at least three generations now, Jack Collom's poetry and poetics have set a standard for the appreciation of earthly experience in elemental, quick-tempo'd language. This large selection of his work represents the scope of his life's work; it is wonderful to have it available.

Jack Collom was born in Chicago, and grew up in nearby Western Springs to the tune of the Denver Zephyrs. He did a lot of walking in Salt Creek Woods and began birdwatching at the age of 11. The family moved west and he graduated from Fraser (Colorado) High School in a class of 4, then attended Forestry School at State A&M.

He joined the U.S. Air Force and wrote his first poems in Tripoli, Libya. After spending time in Germany, he returned to the U.S. and worked in factories for twenty years. He has four grown children and is married to the writer Jennifer Heath.

Having earned an M.A. in English on the GI Bill, Collom has been a free-lance teacher (mostly as Poet-in-the-Schools) for 25 years. He also teaches part-time at Naropa University, mostly Ecology Literature and Writing Outreach.

Jack Collom is the author of 17 small press books of poetry and two Cds, and he is the editor of three collections (with commentaries) of writings by children. He has twice been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.