University of Notre Dame Press
310 Flanner Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9780268017859, $24.00, 144pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Winner of the Notre Dame Review Book Prize, "Times Beach" is an ambitious collection of poems by John Shoptaw that evokes the cultural and environmental history of the Mississippi watershed and meditates on how its rivers are ceaselessly shaping, and shaped by, the lives around them. Shoptaw's free verse and narrative poetry guides us from the Mississippi's headwaters in Lake Itasca to its delta in the Gulf of Mexico, weaving together episodes in the life of the river system; the New Madrid earthquakes; the 1927 flood; the EPA's eradication of the dioxin-laced town of Times Beach; each arising from his own memories of growing up in the Missouri Bootheel: picking cotton, being baptized in a drainage ditch, and working in a lumber mill. The poems comprising "Times Beach" each showcase ring the changes on the big muddy place and hymn its everlasting possibilities. A seminal body of work, "Times Beach" is very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Contemporary American Poetry collections and reading lists.