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Imagine Americana painted with a Van Gogh-like heightened intensity of color viewed through a glass darkly. Now you are ready for Sharon Frye’s new collection, Blue Lamentations. The collection begins with “Quiet Songs”, the old vet runs finger round the mason jar catching last drops from the peaches his wife canned – honeyed shades of nectar pulse through his veins, he sings…, and ends with “In the Silence”, In the center of my being it whispers in the night and in the silence, Yes… I hear it.
The “old vet” is a recurring character throughout Blue Lamentations. The last of the “Greatest Generation” who has done and seen terrible things in war juxtaposed against the daily routine and simple pleasures of aging in the Heartland. The poems, often as not, narrated through the eyes of a child, or the adult child seeing the old vet “slipping away”, and along with him, those times, his generation, and that America, leaving nothing but photographs of “sepia soldiers”.
Then strobe flashes forward in time to MILK and the race riots (“Waiting for Walter”), Vietnam (“At Model Nails”, “Napalm Girl a Photo from Vietnam”, Wounded Knee (“Before Occupation of Wounded Knee”), the Oklahoma City bombing (“If I were God”), 9/11 (“Risen Heroes”), the Iraq Wars (“The Wailing Wall”) right up to the Freddie Gray killing (A Baltimore Teacher Remembers Freddie Gray”).
But this is not a political book. Far from it. Every poem is infused with an empathy for the characters Ms. Frye creates, the hidden burdens they carry, the heroism of just getting through another day, the extravagant beauty of that America not on the coastlines, the kind of stories too seldom heard nowadays that only an Oklahoma gal could tell. And beyond the political and social, there is yet another level to Blue Lamentations – a deep sense of spirituality, or at least, the longing for a higher purpose and Divine Being. One can almost see Emily Dickinson nodding approval at some of Ms. Frye’s lines at times.
Every picture may tell a story, but in Blue Lamentations every story creates a picture in the most vivid hues. Pictures you will recognize, pictures you will care about, perhaps even pictures you will carry with you in your wallet like an old vet so you don’t forget. If you should forget, be sure to keep Sharon Frye’s book close by to remind you of who we Americans are, from where we come, and who brought us here.
Philip Larrea, Author,
Part Time Job.