Brian Burch is a teacher, writer and poet and author of Still Under the
Prose poems are difficult to master. There are times with this form when the structure becomes too demanding and times when the content threatens to take over. David McFadden’s Gypsy Guitar is the best collection of prose poetry I have read this year and it shows both a mastery of form and a depth of content that surprised me.
Gypsy Guitar is composed of a sequence of 100 poems that manage to make the normal life of a Canadian somewhat of a mystical experience, finding magic in the Bathurst Street subway station and visions on a night bus to Montreal. McFadden can have us look at the mundane as it is and yet force us to transcend its earthyness and become a part of an ongoing, perhaps even heroic, saga that is so often ignored as we rush through our existence.
David McFadden readily acknowledges the influences of others on his work. Susan Musgrave, Baudelaire, Antonin Artaud and Elizabeth Barrett Browning are cited, with Baudelaire being the most frequently named. Yet even with these rather awesome influences, David McFadden’s voice is a clear one. He takes traditional forms like a sonnet and adapts them to the prose poem style. He takes a concept from Baudelaire and places it in the Buffalo airport. He is strong enough in his mastery of poetic form and imagery to use the tools of others to build his work.
To me, the image that stands out the most is found in “Walter’s Mountain”:
No, by the time you’ve reached that age you’ve absorbed in your life so much sadness a little more sadness wouldn’t affect you at all.
I hope that McFadden continues his efforts to build new poems on the foundations of literary traditions. His ability to do so is all too rare.