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What is a younger brother to do upon finding out that his brother has six months to live?
What is a father to tell his young sons about the everyday violence, inequities, and injustices of the world?
What is a husband to do when confronted with his domestic foibles and failings?
What can poems possibly offer us in the face of unanswerable questions?
Deke Dangle Dive explores illness, fatherhood, brotherhood, and masculinity through ice hockey, contemporary culture, domestic life, and the natural world and considers how poems can speak to us and through us when all seems (or is) lost.
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Gibson Fay-LeBlanc’s first collection of poems, Death of a Ventriloquist (University of North Texas, 2012), won the Vassar Miller Prize and was featured by Poets & Writers as one of a dozen debut collections to watch. His poems have appeared in magazines including Guernica, the New Republic, Tin House, jubilat, FIELD, and the Literary Review. He currently serves as executive director of the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance and lives in Portland, Maine with his family.
In long and short forms, free and metered and rhymed, Gibson Fay-LeBlanc’s Deke Dangle Dive is a gorgeous, powerful, and playful self-reckoning. With an ear deeply attuned to the verbal music of Frost and Heaney spiked with a dash of Hopkins, Fay-LeBlanc faces the facts of middle age, of the practice of poetry, of raising two boys (“It’s so easy / to make broken people”) and of working to keep a marriage sparked while circumstance hands out its humilities. Deke Dangle Dive is also a reckoning with a brother’s illness (“I want, I want // my brother’s cells to stop their war / on each other”) and with the broken family of origin whose rules take a lifetime to untangle (“I who so often / shut my mouth / too early / mean to / keep on talking”). But there is as much hope and consolation in these poems as there is wariness and weariness. Life’s not a game, but there are games to play, channels for all the rage and fear, moves against the uncertainty. Feel your heart lifted as this poet shows what sports and poetry have to teach one another: “Is this such bad training for what is to come?”
—Craig Morgan Teicher, author of The Trembling Answers
I don’t know what to praise more—the vivid and bracing language of the poems in Deke Dangle Dive, or the sense of life that language delivers, a life fully lived and examined in all its rich complexity. Hockey is, as one poem says, a way of “humbling yourself to the rules of the game”— and that also goes for the making of art, and beyond that, the process Keats would call soul-making, acknowledging the longing, love, and grief that make us human. For Gibson Fay-LeBlanc that involves exploring what it means to be a husband, father, and son and confronting the serious illness of a beloved brother. If the poet knows that the form “can never be close enough to the actual,” still when poems are as beautifully made, as emotionally compelling as these are, they seem to pulse with life and pass that life on to us, through words that do indeed “land in the gut” and “shiver the ribs.”
—Betsy Sholl, author of Otherwise Unseeable
Deke means to trick or feint, dangle means to hold out in temptation, and dive means to fall from a great height. Gibson Fay-LeBlanc’s poems do all three. Sometimes at once. These are poems of risk and reward, of loss and labor. They present themselves as stories of hockey and poetry and love—fatherly and familial—but they always have another trick ready. Fay-LeBlanc’s second book proves he is a magician within “this brutal, beautiful game.”
—Jeffrey Thomson, author of Half/Life: New and Selected Poems
The goalie—sixties and fit, his graying mustache
leaping as he spoke—said, No fucking talk
about books here, to two defensemen
breaking down a novel. The room—we were
cinching shoulder pads, grabbing helmets—
roared. If you haven’t been in this locker room,
here follows the list of subjects allowed: sex lives
with detail, deer or moose hunting, barrooms,
and hockey—kids, adult, professional, pond,
women’s. We’re twenty-first century
hockey players, I said, and then, I read
this wonderful poem the other day. We roared
again. I wasn’t kidding but wanted the roar.
Dear Committees, keep your fucking medals
for reading poems or writing them—someday
I’ll deke that goalie—catlike at six on a Thursday,
swiveling, kicking out puck after puck—
I’ll crush a body, sprint the boards and swing
in front of him, show him the forehand
twitch and switch and slip puck into net
then I’ll deliver lines on a man who finds
and kisses his brother, and the goalie’s heart will leap
and flutter in the way he thought could never
happen outside this brutal, beautiful game.
Wing and a Prayer
Hook me up to a current I felt
once: birdsong so quiet it seemed
an echo of birdsong
or a creek made of air
the same temperature as a body—
a silent humming I walked through.
I’m supposed to let whatever
happens be what I want
but I still want, I want, I want
my brother’s cells to stop their war
on each other. I want a poet
I missed too much when here.
I want the body of a woman
down the block to come back
so she can see her kids grow up
and they know they’re seen. Deep
in my shallow root system
all of this is so far beyond
my small tangle of electric streets
where one raindrop pushed to one side
of one honey locust leaf can mean
somewhere someone dies of thirst
and somewhere else thunder becomes
a god again. I always want rest,
oh you godless godhead, positron,
annihilation, ether, or stream—
bottomless, unnamable—but I will
sit here as long as it takes and watch
for any drip, flutter, or tick
that could be your approving nod.
Deke Dangle Dive
Pub date – May 4, 2021
Trade paper – 6 X 9″
Emerging Voices – Poetry
5 Horizon Road, #2403
Fort Lee, New Jersey 07024
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