Whether you’re a native-born or naturalized Ozarker, Dr. Phil Howerton’s latest poetry collection, “Gods of Four Mile Creek,” is sure to touch your heart and sentiments.
You may say you don’t like poetry, but think again — think of your favorite country song or Sunday hymn: You love poetry.
Reared on the banks of modest Four Mile Creek just west of Long Lane, Howerton relates in various forms of poignant and vividly descriptive verse, prose and photos the essence of living and growing to maturity on a small Ozarks farm.
Verse-by-verse, his insights and poetic images lead us to discover the treasures of the landscapes we call home — our own Four Mile Creeks.
Most of us have scarcely noticed the old fences we’ve crossed, but Howerton finds inspiration in a single veteran in “An Old Corner Post.”
It begins, “He is ash gray, weathered, and shrunken and has several wild hairs of wire no one bothers to trim,” and continues near the end, “but if you stand beside him a moment, you will see four straight tangents formed by scattered cedars and wild roses, marking where fence rows once led….”
He continues his homage to old fences in “White Oak Posts,” noting, “they long ago rotted from earth and hang above a leaf bed clinging to wire.”
Can’t you see it?
Later in the collection he shares his understanding of the value of mundane tasks in “Rabbit Trap,” observing, “a boy can learn a lot by building something small, like a rabbit trap.”
Surely all of us once took hammer in hand for a similar experience.
One of my favorite verses, though, is “When the Milk Cans Became Unemployed,” because I remember that time quite well.
It begins, “Some found positions with the postal service holding rural mailboxes, pleased to have landed federal jobs,” reflecting the wry humor common to Ozarks country folk.
The same might be said of the collection’s title, “The Gods of Four Mile Creek.”
Call it Phil Howerton’s country song and Sunday sermon, delivered with a grin.
Dr. Phillip Howerton is a professor of English at Missouri State University at West Plains. A sixth generation Ozarker, he was reared on a small family farm at Long Lane in Dallas County, and attended schools at Long Lane and Buffalo. He earned degrees in English, history, and education from Drury University and a doctorate in English from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He has taught English for more than 20 years, is co-founder and co-editor of Cave Region Review and general editor of Elder Mountain: A Journal of Ozarks Studies. His poetry collection, The History of Tree Roots, was published by Golden Antelope Press in 2015, and his anthology, The Literature of the Ozarks, was published by University of Arkansas Press in February 2019. He received the 2019 Missouri Literary Award from the Missouri Library Association. He is also founder of Cornerpost Press.
Released Nov. 1, 2023, “Gods of Four Mile Creek, is published by Golden Antelope Press, 715 E. McPherson,
Kirksville, MO 63501.
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