Dan Dervin has my utmost respect. Lest this seem like a love letter under the guise of a book review, I would argue that his impact on the Fredericksburg community and on this very newspaper are almost impossible to quantify and more than justify that respect.
No one is actually sure when his first book review appeared in The Free Lance-Star because it was long before e-editions and the cloud, but Google can cough up at least one review from the 1980s. He started teaching as a professor of English at Mary Washington College in 1967 and spent a few decades riding to and from campus on a bicycle with a broken seat while instructing and shaping thousands of young minds. And from these decades of existence and experience, now flows poetry. Or, more exactly, the capturing of his poetry in “Poems Fresh and Seasoned.”
As a fan of the man and his writing, I would never banish him with the implication that he is entering the dreaded twilight of a career or life, but there is a wistfulness in some of the poems in “Poems Fresh and Seasoned.” Through these lines of verse, one can sense longing and reflection as in “Lovers Lapses”:
Misplacing himself while cleaning his garage
Emptying seed bags and dried-up bulbs long
Exceeding their shelf-life, the autumn lover
Locates a blue unused kite given years ago
By his father to a grandson, never assembled,
Never sent forth or flown—a crippled cricket
Cobwebbed in dust, no longer waiting for
Fingers and winds to find…
There is much to like here as Dervin delves into his literary roots and heaps praise upon Yeats and other influences. These poems contain echoes of far-off family trips and moments where poetry serves eternity better than a Polaroid. The poems contain a host of memorable lines like the opening of “On Passing a War Engraving in a City Park”:
Happily we inhabit the Midwest where history
Forgot to happen.
Once upon a time, Dervin wrote a book on the playwright George Bernard Shaw and I was reminded of Shaw’s words as I read “Poems Fresh and Seasoned”: “This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.”
It is obvious that Dervin has spent his life in purposes mighty. He is a writer, a teacher, a father, a husband and a poet. These poems serve to preserve and enhance the legacy of a man of who has devoted his life to words.