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Don Washburn: The Boy from Under the Trees

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The Boy from Under The Trees, first published in a limited-edition volume in 1982, is Don Washburn’s lyric poetry cycle — 128 poems in 16 sections — distilling the essence of childhood and youth in a town in Eastern Pennsylvania in the 1940s. The poet recalls “As a kid, I was allowed to have the run of my neighborhood. With that freedom, came the excitement of exploration and the joy of discovery. I was left with many memories, moments that still have a special power. The poems are in an eight-line rhyming verse form called the rispetto. They sum up what I still keep from these beginnings. I now realize that under the trees of my boyhood I first heard the other-worldly music that was to become a lifelong companion. ” Inevitable as comparisons to Ray Bradbury’s fictional Ohio of the same era might be, Washburn’s Pennsylvania is tougher — an ethnically mixed, blue-collar city on the Delaware river — less sentimental, yet full of poignant nature impressions and character portraits. The boy and young man of these poems would go on to college, then spend a lifetime as a teacher — yet during all this, the treeline of his exploration continued to expand, to the Berkshires where he has resided for many decades, and, spiritually to Sufism and other quests for the eternal and ineffable. Washburn’s poetry is prescient of a consciousness eager to expand, and the skill with which he employs his verse form includes an almost effortless, colloquial use of rhyme and rhythm, which sometimes includes a teasing line break in mid-word to induce a rhyme. It is a privilege to bring this delightful poem cycle into a new edition for the 21st century. Published June 2012.

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