Country Boy Just Me


Lewellen offers a collection of poems and short essays about love, adventure, and everyday life.

The author launches his first volume of poetry with an introduction that explains that all its works began in a spiral notebook, and they progress in order of creation from August 1977 to February 1982. He notes that some of the poems here represent “thoughts and words, still innocent, eager, and sometimes just plain stupid,” but that he includes them as a way to demonstrate to other writers that even if one begins in a state of ignorance, “there is no excuse to stay there.” The lengthy collection of 480 poems is periodically broken up by grayscale sketches of objects by the author, such as a broken-down car in a field, as well as the occasional black-and-white photos by the author. The poems range from just a few words to around three pages in length; some contain religious and spiritual imagery, such as “A Vision of Isaiah” (“You worship your earthly idols / With great zeal, / You ignore all the great gifts / He revealed”), but most are of a more secular nature. Having grown up in the small, rural town of Fiona, Texas, Lewellen makes many references to nature and animals, including a “bum steer” and a “little brown bug.” This also likely explains why some of the poems sound like the beginnings of quirky country songs, as in “The Web You Break”: “I can touch a spider’s web / And not break it, / You’ve touched my heart, / Let the spider beware!”

Overall, this collection often feels like a poetical memoir of sorts, and it’s one that’s clearly deeply personal to Lewellen (“This is not an autobiography but yet it is”). He says at the start that he wants to keep things simple; however, there are 55 poems that share the same title (“’Tis the View”), and many poems in this volume more closely resemble passing thoughts. For example, “’Tis the View” from September 24, 1979, reads, “Ignorance and ignoring, / The latter far greater in sin,” and “’Tis the View” from November 18, 1979, reads, “Success and food—the longer the wait—the better the taste.” The short personal essays at the beginning of each chapter—including one in which Lewellen discusses when he and his high school friend Larry hopped on a 6 a.m. flight to Alaska the day after graduation to work for a road construction company—effectively help ground the poems in past experiences. However, the repeated poem title can be confusing, and the chapter titles (“Chapter ‘A,’” “Chapter ‘B,’” and so on) would have benefited from more context. Lewellen does, however, showcase his robust sense of humor, as in “The Start of a War,” which reads, in its entirety: “Yes! / No!” It’s followed by a short explanatory note: “Written in English Class WTSU/ I have put lots of time and thought and design over the years / Perfecting this poem!”

A set of quaint, if sometimes overly general, observations in poetic form.

Good thing I kept my day job!


Lewellen presents a volume of poems, sketches, and musing centered on his enduring love story with his wife.

The author’s second volume of poetry, which progresses in chronological order from February 1982 through March 1996, encapsulates “fourteen of the best years of my life. Courting, loving and traveling across the country with my Lady Love.” As readers might guess from the book’s subtitle, the majority of the 499 poems gathered here trace the evolution of the author’s relationship with his wife, Linda. More poems and fewer essays appear here than in the previous collection, with occasional color photographs (usually of landscapes) and hand-drawn sketches providing visual breaks. Readers will also find some of Linda’s own work, including drawings, letters, and proselike poems; “I talk too much because I’ve waited so long to say to another what I’ve said to myself. I want to get it all out, to catch you up on my life, to be even with your heart.” Lewellen continues to follow the format of short (sometimes single-line) poems that reflect his growing feelings for Linda, while also tackling topics that reflect universal concerns, such as mourning a beloved dog, the process of writing itself, and the value of hard work in poems such as “Plow Hands”: “My hands, / Just like my Daddy’s / And like his Daddy’s / On and on / Back through time. / They were bred to work, / Like a long past / Plow horse, / As Mama calls them, / Clydesdale hands.” The book has occasional references to God and appeals to a higher power when in need, but most of the poems remain largely secular.

Beginning right where he left off in the previous volume, Lewellen starts the book with chapter F and poem number 481. His desire for simplicity results in repeated, overlapping poem names (45 poems are titled “’Tis the View’, 20 are titled “Me to Me Too”), which can cause readers some major confusion. The book also has occasional typos (“You two were an item” instead of “You two were an item,” for example) that distract from the touching sentiments of the poems themselves. While plenty of brief poems certainly pack an emotional or intellectual wallop, readers may find themselves wishing for more context for and elaboration on many of these verses. Still, the author does a wonderful job of conveying his deep love and devotion to Linda. While the author’s poems form the backbone of the book, his wife’s occasional musings provide a unique counterbalance to his perspective, with side-by-side reflections giving readers a rare and intimate glimpse into their dual thoughts and emotions. The author displays an intense vulnerability throughout the work, both in his feelings toward Linda and in his feelings about mortality itself. In “Letter to My Lady,” he laments: “You’re older than I, / There’s a greater chance / You might die. / I would have to live without you. / For the rest of my life, / That bothers me.”
A deeply personal collection of poetic musings on a singular relationship.

Thank my lucky stars I found my better half!

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