Poetry. LGBTQIA Studies. In OUR DELICATE BARRICADES DOWNED, William Reichard writes of small-town and city life on the prairie of his native Minnesota, but any association this might suggest with the work of a certain other Minnesotan is immediately dispelled in these haunted, haunting prose poems. Haunted, because there are indeed ghosts in many poems, in the abandoned houses he and his friends explored a boys, the ruined barns and abandoned sawmill and former asylum, and later "the ghost of an angry nun...outraged that two gay men and a lesbian had moved into her house," in "A Former Home for Wayward Girls," or, in another apartment, the weight he feels in bed at night of "an invisible man lying down with his unwitting lover," a "spirit, lonely, trapped in a desperate cycle." Most of all, Reichard is haunted by his long-dead sister, and his more recently departed mother. The "delicate barricades downed" here are those between worlds, between life and death. But also haunting, because these are not so much ghost stories as ghost's stories, depicting the lives of those who live on the fringes, beyond the bounds, the drunks and battered wives and suicides and pedophiles, the transgressive and the merely other, and most of all the "country queers." The very form of these poems, arranged as blocks of text on the page, conveys the sense of stricture, of limits, of inside and out.
But if Reichard is himself such a ghost, he nevertheless writes with great love and tenderness for his native ground, and the spirit of place also moves in these pages. Reichard is both author and artist, and his work graces the cover of the book, a cyanotype made upon the death of his mother, a particularly apt choice as he describes in the poem of that title: "Blue, the color of my heart. Blue upon blue upon blue... Blue graveyard and blue headstones. Blue names and blue dates. Blue spruce and blue pine. They form a blue wall around a blue house. We, who are blue, live our blue lives inside it, but we are invisible, disappearing, as we do, into the blue walls of every room."
In the closing poem, appropriately titled "At Last," he asks, "Did you find me or someone you wanted to be me? Hope shapes our vision. Desire warps it. If you can't see me, perhaps I'm only a spirit, what remains of a dream once the dreamer wakes. Or a ghost. Can you say what a ghost is? Can you tell me I am not one?" Perhaps, so are we all.
William Reichard is a writer, editor, and educator. He has published seven previous volumes of poetry, including OUR DELICATE BARRICADES DOWNED (Broadstone Books, 2021), The Night Horse: New and Selected Poems (Brighthorse Books, 2018), and TWO MEN ROWING MADLY TOWARD INFINITY (Broadstone Books, 2016). Reichard is the editor of the anthology American Tensions: Literature of Identity and the Search for Social Justice (New Village Press, 2011), and he edited and revised the late Ricardo Brown's memoir, The Evening Crowd at Kirmser's: A Gay Life in the 1940's (University of Minnesota Press, 2001). He has received grants and awards from the Jerome Foundation, and the Minnesota State Arts Board.Author City: SAINT PAUL, MN USA