Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Favorite Book of 2011: William Trowbridge's SHIP OF FOOL

As the year ends, I remember Bill Trowbridge's reading from his new book Ship of Fool (Raven Bookstore's Big Tent series, April 28) as one of the best I have ever seen: he read quality work, all unified by a theme. He had just the right balance of poem to discussion of the poem, and the right balance of funny and serious. He connected with the audience so well. Trowbridge is a master sleight-of-hand, who plays on his readers' sympathies as well as Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp, and the correct response is laughter and tears at once. Yes, every poem is about Fool, and by the time the book ends, the archetype Fool has been a film noir star, parted from his money, wise, and a prom goer. Here the Fool has his holiday, April's Fools Day, with a catalogue of bad practical jokes. I follow this poem, pulled into its momentum, and don't notice its sleekness. His final, original image of Fool lost in space stays with me for days. Trowbridge is so good.
On Fool’s birthday, April 1, people play
jokes on him all day long. “April Fool!”
his wife and kids hoot as the pancakes explode.
“Gotcha again!” quips the gang at work
when he sits down in the Limburger cheese.
His mom and dad, though dead, always call to ask
if he has Prince Albert in a can. “Well, let him out!”
they shriek, not waiting for an answer.
By five o’clock, Fool feels like a space walker
cut loose from the mother ship. The radio
in his head chatters nonsense as he floats
end over end. “You are my sunshine,”
he sings sotto voce, “my only sunshine.”
(first published in The Gettysburg Review)
Look for William Trowbridge's poem "Rental Tux," Jan. 9, 2012,in An American Life in Poetry, a syndicated newspaper & e-column published by the partnership of The Poetry Foundation, Ted Kooser, and The Library of Congress.
Trowbridge, an Omaha native, has a Ph..D. in English from Vanderbilt University. He teaches in the University of Nebraska low residency MFA program. He was Distinguished University Professor at Northwest Missouri State, where he was an associate editor of The Laurel Review. He lives in Lee's Summit, Missouri with his wife Sue. Ship of Fool is from Red Hen Press. Other books are The Complete Book of Kong (Southeast Missouri State University Press), Enter Dark Stranger, Flicker, and Paradise (Uall from niversity of Arkansas Press). His website is