Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review of Rough Traces by Jason Wesco

I had the pleasure of reading an autographed copy of Rough Traces (Shake Dust Press--Damascus, Nebraska, 2007), a collection of poetry by fellow Kansas City area poet Jason Wesco.  I received the copy directly from Mr. Wesco at, of all places, a health center where I had recent job interview--as it turned out, Mr. Wesco is the CEO of that health center.

I always bring something to read everywhere I go, and grabbed my copy of William Stafford’s The Way It Is off the coffee table on my way out the door as I left for the interview.  As I walked in to Mr. Wesco’s office, he noticed what I was reading.  “One of my favorite poets,” he said.  That certainly started my interview off on the right foot!  When we were done, he walked me to the parking lot and to his car, where he found a copy of Rough Traces in the trunk.  He scrounged around for a pen and autographed it for me.

It is evident in Rough Traces that Wesco admires Stafford.  Many of the fifty-three poems in the collection read like Stafford’s work.  There is also something there reminiscent of Whitman.  In fact, the portrait of Wesco in the back of the book is much like, and perhaps was inspired by, the iconic portrait of a young Whitman slouching casually in lose-fitting clothes, hands in his pockets.

Mr. Wesco favors the second person POV in his work, which, as my readers know, is something that I usually do not.  You know what I mean.  Using second person POV is always risky.  The poet must be careful not to offend the reader by telling a story from that reader’s POV.  Ideally, its use will draw the reader into the poem and make the reader feel a part of its fabric, feel the song of the poem in his heart.  For the most part, Mr. Wesco produces exactly this effect--and, coming from me, that is really saying something.

Wesco is definitely a regional poet, drawing inspiration from the Kansas City area and the surrounding Midwestern region.  Most of his poems are set about two generations back.  Many make use of regional dialect.  Reading them, especially as most directly address the reader, made me feel as though I had traveled through time to a Kansas that, while not the Wild West, was still rough around the edges, gritty, and a country western kind of cool.  If you want a copy, look here:

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