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Prairie Schooner - Fall 2009

  • Issue Number: Volume 83 Number 3
  • Published Date: Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle: Quarterly

Guest Editor Grace Bauer was given the reins of this issue of Prairie Schooner. Influenced by the number of recent baby boomer milestones, including news reports about their first retirements and the golden anniversary of Barbie, Bauer decided to dedicate the volume to the generation. Not only have boomers produced a wide range of work, she notes, but they are, perhaps, the most-written-about generation of Americans. The choice is an apt one; baby boomers witnessed vast societal change. They are capable of writing about the times of both typewriters and computers. They bridge the gap between 45s and the ubiquitous iPod.

The bulk of the issue consists of very good pieces from boomer poets. These writers meditate on the expected topics. In “Complaint,” Marilyn Kallet contemplates her designer product-buffeted mortality when the “pimply teen” at Wendy’s offers her the senior discount.

Erin Belieu depicts an image of boomer love. In her poem, “The Poem That Answers Why I Never Write Poems in Which You Appear,” she provides a meta-account of the joys of “domestic life:” “what better life / than you, cranky and topless in your plaid / pajama pants which are, as ever, / turned inside out?”

Jesse Lee Kercheval’s “The Day Before the Day Before Thanksgiving” bears witness to a discussion she had with her English 203 class that confirms the fears of a dedicated pessimist. Not only are her students unfamiliar with the words “napalm” and “Chicano,” but they make her feel like, “a human footnote, my voice / the tiny type explaining things no one wants to know, each / word dustier than the last.”

Dorothy Barresi ties the issue together satisfyingly with her essay, “Baby Boom Poetry and the New Zeitgeist.” She aligns herself with baby boomer poets, many of whom “have written as though iconic nostalgia were [their] birthright.” In the nineteen-page essay, Barresi covers a lot of ground, analyzing the themes of and sometimes quoting all of the usual suspects, including Dean Young, Tony Hoagland, Mark Halliday and Andrew Hudgins.

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Review Posted on November 16, 2009

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