Newspaper clippings make up the cover of English Professor Robert Carney’s newest poetry collection, Story Problems, including one clipped photo of salmon crossing the road during a flood in Washington state. The eye moves over the different layers of information scattered on both the front and the back of the book. It’s almost representative of the ideas explored inside the covers.
Carney pulls the poetry into different sections similar to the way a newspaper may be segmented. “Op-Eds and Parables,” “Want ads and Personals” and “News and Haikus” are some of the different categories poems are found under. Carney explores different aspects of politics, people, animals and what this world is in this collection.
The poetry isn’t terribly difficult to understand, but at the same time, it’s not a collection that talks down to its audience. A lot of the forms in the poetry contain fairly simple couplets or triplets, but others go outside the formal and into innovative new shapes.
It isn’t as though you would need to immediately look for a dictionary after reading any of these poems. The collections could easily be understood by someone that isn’t at all familiar with poetry, but is still engaging for avid poetry readers.
Some of the people referenced, such as the namesake of the section “Fables of Faubus,” may induce more research into individuals like Arkansas’ longest-serving governor, Orval Faubus, but the section creatively blends snippets of biographical information about the man with contemplative poetry about racism and the South.
The collection’s namesake poem, “Story Problems” combines what appears to be math book language and looks with not so mathematical questions the persona has for the readers. The poem concludes with some of the strongest questions and problems that face us.
“Why do we divide our lives into stories? / “And how come stories multiply our lives?”
Story Problems, as well as Carney’s live readings, have the atmosphere of one of the most fascinating conversations one could have with a stranger at a bus stop or a café.
Carney will be doing live readings and signings on and off campus, including one on April 5 from 1-2 p.m. in LI 120.
Rob Carney off-campus Poetry readings:
April 7: 7-8 p.m.
Ken Sanders Rare Books
268 S. 200 E., Salt Lake City
April 23: 7-8 p.m.
The King’s English
1511 S. 1500 E., Salt Lake City
Copies of the book can be purchased at the poetry reading locations as well as online at SomondocoPress.com or Amazon.com