A Horse of Blue Ink
New poems from Fran Quinn
Blue Sofa Press; $10
If asked, the poet Fran Quinn would probably not characterize himself as “Midwestern,” preferring instead to associate himself with his home ground in working-class Massachusetts. That’s his business, of course, and not to be begrudged.
But Quinn has lived amongst us for the better part of 20 years now and, based on the evidence of his latest book of poems, A Horse of Blue Ink, a reader might be forgiven for detecting a certain timbre in Quinn’s voice — a plainspoken warmth — that suggests he has found a home here, too.
Ultimately, though, the sense of place in this collection transcends particular geographies in favor of a deep landscape of the heart. This is a loving book — a book about old love, new love, the love that lives in memory and love as the body knows it. And, as the body knows, while love may offer us a glimpse of something eternal, the body itself is mortal; the shadow of time passing, an intimate knowledge of loss, is never too far out of the pictures Quinn describes.
Most of all, though, loving, for Quinn, is a vital source of everyday renewal. In “This River Has Only One Shore” he writes:
I’ve been dedicated to life and as a reward I got you.
Oh, I’ve seen death over there with his painted toes,
His long boxes, his river craft moldering on the shore!
But as for me, his passage, as sure as he is of it,
Will have to wait for someone else, for I am dedicated to life.
Quinn’s penchant is for direct address (“I got you”); this makes his poems easily approachable. At the same time, though, he is capable of effortless leaps capable of carrying readers from commonplace streets and yards into spaces timeless as they are deep. Most of all, this companionable voice observes without ever diminishing and generously confides without giving anything away.
Poetry itself is probably Fran Quinn’s place. To the extent that the angles of our wind or light have found their way into his rhythms, we’re better off.