The Coal Life

StarbreakAdam Vines (MFA, 2006)

University of Arkansas Press, 2012
ISBN: 9781557289803

In many of the poems in The Coal Life, Adam Vines, an avid outdoorsman and former professional landscaper for nearly twenty years, explores the cultural landscape of Alabama coal-mining camps in the first half of the twentieth century and how the industry can shape and distort a cultural text similar to the way it contorts and upturns the physical landscape. Other poems in the collection—some autobiographical, some assuming the personae of voices as varied as Gauguin, Magritte’s Daemon, Georg Cantor, post-Eden Adam, Hamlet, and an old fisherman railing against new-fangled technology—express how we are all mining our memories, our cultures, and the natural world in an attempt to grope toward identity. Vines reminds us that poetry embodies and preserves transient emotion, perception, and flesh just as coal compacts and ossifies the vitality of an ancient landscape, and he reveals that the charge of the poet is to mine language, extract it and haul it to the surface, separate from it what is useless, and palm what will rekindle the fire of living experience.

The Coal Life is part of the University of Arkansas Press Poetry series, edited by Enid Shomer.