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Poet B.H. Fairchild barters with beauty

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Next week, Colorado College opens its Visiting Writers Series with award-winning poet B.H. Fairchild. The Texas native, who grew up in small towns in Oklahoma, Kansas and West Texas, will entertain with readings from his fourth book, The Art of the Lathe.

In beautiful language textured with layers of imagery and meaning, the book dissects themes of small-town, blue-collar life. As the title suggests, Fairchild deals heavily with "art" and the "lathe," nimbly interweaving the two throughout the book and uncovering continually deeper shades of meaning.

In the poem called "The Machinist, Teaching his Daughter to Play the Piano," the father applies the same finesse to the instruction of Chopin and Mozart as to the lathe of his trade. The imagery of the father's "hand with its raw knuckles and blue nails packed with dirt and oil" across ivory keys evokes a hauntingly effective mix of small-town parochialism and classical erudition.

In the poem "Beauty," Fairchild searches for a definition of the word in the lives of the hardworking Baptist laborers of Kansas. Though the term "beauty" is foreign to the inhabitants of the poem, Fairchild connects aspects of their lives with this common thread before finally returning to the beauty found in the classical proportions of Donatello's David.

The profundity of images in Fairchild's work and his ability to alternate between settings as disparate as rural Kansas and Florence, Italy make his poetry wonderfully unpredictable. That, at least, you can count on.

-- Aaron Menza

capsule

B.H. Fairchild

Colorado College's new Jerome P. McHugh Commons

Thursday, Sept. 5, 8 p.m.

Free. For more, call 389-6853.

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