I am happy to report that Western Trail Blazer has published a collection of my western poetry entitled Thorns on the Rose. This collection has been produced as an e-book and is also available in print format. I am very grateful to Rebecca J. Vickery and Laura Shinn for their willingness to produce a book of poetry in their Western Trail Blazer line.
The book consists of thirty-two poems, ranging in length from lyrical poems as short as nine lines to blank verse and traditional sonnets to songs and ballads of a page or two to longer narrative poems. The book is about eighty pages long, which is normal for a chapbook, and the poems themselves occupy about sixty-four pages.
Small though it is, this book is a special achievement for me. Although I have not written much poetry in comparison with the amount of fiction I have produced, my first literary efforts were poems. I wrote poems in the eighth grade, thanks to the encouragement of a great teacher who had us read and write and try to be original. I continued to write poems on my own in high school and on through college, before I had an idea of how to go about writing a short story and before I had any kind of a base of knowledge, maturity, or method for writing something of book length. Even as I began to write more and more fiction, I always returned to poetry, either as an expression of smaller ideas and feelings or as a way of trying a variety of outlets for western topics and narrative methods. I wrote songs and narrative poems to go along with my traditional western novels, and I have had the excitement of hearing some of these ballads put to music. I have also had a good time reading many of these poems out loud at various events such as writers’ gatherings and book signings. And so my interest and efforts in poetry, which I have carried along all this time, have culminated in a nice book.
One of the poems in this collection is entitled “Labor of Love,” and although that phrase might sound like a cliché, it is not a bad way to represent my relationship with writing poetry. I do it for the love of it. Some of the poems are even about love. If there are characteristics of these poems that are common to my fiction, I would say that they are in craft and tone. I strive for shape and form, and I try to use competent technique. For people who like meter and rhyme, there are poems that I like to think are well done, technically, and that I hope bring an occasional moment of pleasure in that area. In tone, many of these poems reflect a view of life similar to what a person finds in much of my fiction—a bittersweet realism, not mushy and not cynical, hoping for the best in life and love but knowing that there will always be thorns on the rose.