When I was a child growing up in rural Arkansas, sometimes my dad would take me fishing.  We would sit on either end of a banged-up metal boat, drifting along the shore of a lake in the early morning hours.  I’m not talking rod and reel bass master fishing.  We would casually cast out our lines using cane poles.  Crickets were the bait of choice.  Whether we caught fish or not, it wasn’t a big deal.  It was more about being alone in the middle of a lake watching the sun come up.  The fish we caught, we returned to the water.
PastorellesJohn Taggart’s new book of poems, Pastorelles (Flood Editions, 2004) brings this memory back to me, but not because he writes about fishing.  Taggart casts out again and again in these poems.  The use of repetition acts not to reiterate a point or melodify a phrase; rather he is casting his line into the water over and over, emulating the gentle urge of the natural world. 
As an example, here’s "Pastorelle 11":
In or on the water of the pond
shadows on
the water what Traherne saw as a child in wonder
our second selves
looking down at the pond on a mid-summer morning
the surface of the water surfaced with a golden/green film
shadows of lindens on the surface
and wonderful no less wonderful or more
wonderful still for having nothing to do with your selves or mine.

I think that the structure of Pastorelles is modeled after The Opening of the Field by Robert Duncan and, more recently, Notes for Echo Lake by Michael Palmer.  The series of numbered "pastorelles" are placed periodically throughout the book, and they unite the collection as a whole. 
Taggart’s subject matter tends to be rural, pastoral (thus the title) but he also takes on human subjects–writers, jazz and blues musicians, and members of his community.  The mode of the poems tends to be "what once was."  Whether he sees a covered bridge or an old one-room schoolhouse or a tree, he immediately begins imagining its past. 
Flood Editions did beautiful work in publishing this book.  The design really adds to the experience of reading the poems.

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