From the LSU Press Marketing Questionnaire for Fiddler
Written by David Middleton
The Fiddler of Driskill Hill is made up of poems on life in Louisiana — both in the Protestant north, where the poet was born, and in the Roman Catholic south, where he has lived for many years. All written in traditional forms and in a clear style suitable for any audience, the poems in Fiddler are at once deeply rooted in the history, flora, fauna, and geography of Louisiana and the South yet at the same time are concerned with human experiences that transcend any particular place as do Robert Frost’s poems set in New England and Thomas Hardy’s poems set in Wessex. Such experiences include love, death, war, nature, faith and doubt, the agrarian way of life as opposed to industrialism, events from the history of the South, and the growth from childhood into maturity. All of the poems are written in measured verse ranging from the trimeter to the octameter line. Such forms include blank verse, the sonnet, quatrains, couplets, epigrams, ballads, epitaphs, narratives, and stanza forms invented by the poet himself.
Particular subjects of the poems are the lighting of bonfires on the levee, walking the beaches at Grand Isle, meeting Robert Penn Warren, meditating on sculpture atop the entrance to an elementary school in Shreveport, the loss of a daughter at the age of ten, fishing with an uncle on Black Lake in Bienville Parish in north Louisiana, a mother’s farewell to her old home in Shreveport, a father’s struggle to become an artist, a Confederate sniper in the Civil War as well as the reenactment of a Civil War battle fought near Thibodaux, an account of racial reconciliation and inherited land, a farmer’s almanac, hurricanes, hand-me-down clothes, a north Louisiana fiddler, a custodian in a Louisiana college, family members, the death of a poet friend, a boy’s growth into manhood as a poet, and the story of an Irish-Acadian traiteur or traditional healer forced to live in the swamps near Lake Maurepas northwest of New Orleans.
Taken as a whole, the poems in Fiddler affirm the goodness and meaningfulness of life by asking the great, hard philosophical — even theological — questions that human beings have asked and tried to answer through the ages. The governing frame of mind in this collection could be described as celebratory, sympathetic, elegiac, and, most of all, humane.