When I first encountered poet Seth Brady Tucker a few months ago, it was in the course of writing about the Words Beyond Bars Project, a book club for lifers at the Limon state prison. Tucker had visited the group and shared with them how he'd learned to love poetry -- both reading and writing it -- while serving as a paratrooper in the Gulf War. Some of those harrowing poems, about body bags and oil fires and young lives detoured, eventually made it into Tucker's potent collection Mormon Boy. See also: -The lifers book club: Of mice and men, hopes and regrets at the Limon prison - Russian list and combat tales make the reading list for the Limon prison book club - Colorado Humanities might sell off the Ferril House. Throw the book at 'em.
Now Tucker's work has been discovered by the judges for the Colorado Book Awards; Mormon Boy was recently named one of three finalists in the poetry category this year, along with volumes by Chis Pusateri and Jack Collom. This is a nice break for Tucker, who teaches writing at the University of Colorado and the Lighthouse Writers Workshop -- but also for the rest of us, since too often quality work by local writers seems to slip under the radar, simply because it's in the little-noted, little-reviewed category of poetry.
And what poetry. Whether writing about the devastation of war or a soggy day in Dublin or riffing on the film Being There, Tucker is plangent without being self-indulgent, deft without being glib. Speaking of the immolation of his younger self, through bad things he saw and did in the military, he manages to turn guilt and shame into an anthem of sorts in "Dead Man":
people who know me will say that they cannot believe that I have not been alive this whole time, what with the two useless degrees and my penchant
for drink, and they will not believe that it all didn't happen in the desert, on a road mirrored by a pipeline, because they have heard my stories, and it is true
to an extent that I did some dying there, but dying is not dead, and dead is how things have been and always will be, and dead is what I look like when
I open my eyes and am finally able to see.
Yet there is also a great deal here about life: about the loneliness of western landscapes; making out in cars with bucket seats; bittersweet odes to old girlfriends, sublime canines and a well-formed female soccer player; and the danger of lists:
my list of necessities from three years ago: running water, fried tomatoes, flatscreen TV, Heidi Klum, sunroof, lilangel4506 in chat
room PLEASUREDOME, garage door opener...and lastly a comfortable
sofa minus the smell of urine. Somewhere along the way, the list becomes the pleasure, then the work for the list become the pleasure,
then one day you find yourself poring over a receipt at a restaurant, looking for a way to leave less of a tip...
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Tucker will be reading from Mormon Boy at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Cafe, 1203 13th Street in Boulder (the free program includes others in CU's Program for Writing and Rhetoric, including Eric Burger, Sigman Byrd, Charles Doersch, Jami Frush and David J. Rothman), and also at a benefit for Colorado Humanities/Center for the Book at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25, at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place ($7 admission for that one).