Killing Trout and Other Love Poems
David Fraser
NewPages Press, 2008
Review by Emily Hendren

Trout enthusiasts; love enthusiasts; good, down-to-earth story enthusiasts, say hello to David Fraser. In his first book of poems, Killing Trout and Other Love Poems, Fraser captures and illuminates life's simple beauties and not only treads northern Michigan's bountiful waters, but travels the course of love between man and his fishing tackle and man and his Juliet.

Fraser treats many of the most discussed themes of life—namely, the allure of a woman and the undeniable force of nature—with delicate intensity. He uses lists to build momentum within the line and stanza, most of which climax in a categorically and surprisingly ordinary action. The last lines of "Ernie’s Morning" offer compelling contrast to the rest of the poem's busyness:

he watched the hopper, motionless

on the windshield and as the first drops

of rain landed on the roof, he closed

his eyes for a while.

Nature has a cooling and calming effect on both the subject of the poem and the reader. Fraser also uses lists to substitute traditional sentences when capturing nature's diversity and splendor, as seen in "Back at Pickerel Lake."

Beautifully juxtaposed, Fraser's fluid style and language add sensuality to the often raw images of nature. His selective use of lowercase letters at the heads of sentences adds a noticeable softness to lines, as if his lowercase letters back the message of humble oneness with nature that the reader tracks across the pages. A lowercase "c" feels much less forward, much less severe, than a capital "C." In similar fashion, Fraser dissolves the harshness of sound and imagery through his use of eloquent and unexpected phrasing. Lines like "the chainsaw singing with the wind" suggest the beauty and musicality of a chainsaw rather than its brusque destructiveness. Fraser manages to make words like "carcass," "beefsteaks," "McDonald's" and "jackrabbit" seem beautiful, delicate even; he extends the same tenderness to the wild beasts of nature as he does the loved ones of his heart. The beasts, in fact, become loved ones.

As the title suggests, love finds a place inside many of the book's poems. Fraser uses the notion of love—romantic, erotic, physical, mysterious, holistic—to enhance his already captivating images. Love, as in life, appeals to all the senses in the collection, as seen in "The House Smells of Bread," "The Sloppy Joe Poem," "Well, the Dignity...," "Birds and Telephones" and "Corky and Me." Fraser offers the reader permission to eat, smell, hunt, curse and long for love, without the fear of feeling foolish; lines like "how cheesecake or trout are you?" encourage a playful attitude when engaging in conversation with and about love, and they remove limiting boundaries for both the characters within the poems and the reader.

Killing Trout and Other Love Poems sends the message that a simple life is a full life; the complications of love, of life in the wilderness fade as the appreciation for both grows. An excerpt from "Chainsaw Carole" summarizes, I think, Fraser's purpose within the book and his mantra for life:

while they were

cutting wood, I was playing with trout

and women, beer, berries and waiting

for nightfall.

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© Emily Hendren, 2010