Bring an Extry Mule (Paperback)
Purple Flag, 9780944048771, 152pp.
Publication Date: March 11, 2017
From the prologue poem "Bring an Extry Mule" through the shaped memories and imaginings of boyhood and to the affirmations of the "dignity of work" of ordinary men and women in the nation's heartland, Ken Hada's new collection tells the truth. There is a profound authenticity of voice in these pages, an honesty of character, a wonderful sense of place and time, all underlined by both a lyrical joy and a kind of boisterous sadness for things and people seen and recalled, often in passing, in bars and cafes and the long stretches of land "on the edge/of small town America/in the heart of God's country." In this way, Hada sings and celebrates and despairs in the tradition of Steinbeck and Guthrie, and he too examines the personal and cultural landscapes where "the ghost/of democracy drifts" as working people try to make lives for themselves and their families, to find that often elusive place where "happiness comes and peace may be found." Writer, fisherman, participant, seer, observer, and essential character in these poems, "recording impressions, taking note/of my own mortality," Hada tells us with a deeply felt and engaging clarity about those lives, reminding us that they are real, that they are "more than metaphor," and that the currents of social and economic change affect real people and not just some distant caricatures in the culture wars that are currently dividing us. He has "good memories of an Ozark childhood," and knows that too many of those he grew up with have been left behind by those changes. But he also knows, and at every step affirms, that "the same stars hang above us all." That is the fundamental truth in these remarkable poems, genuine and insightful, that at every turn of the page bring us to smiling recognition or to tears. Hada knows that we all share this great land together, that for many of our fellow citizens an "extry mule" is a matter of necessity and of pride, and that all of us must accept that the commitment to shared purpose and community - across the many horizons at the nation's great core and both eastward and westward to the oceans that frame us - are what "keep an unfair/world from grinding to a halt." This is a brilliant book, a literary and cultural treasure. - Jonas Zdanys