A father and son shovel snow from a driveway; a boy accidentally sets himself on fire; two boys fish for bluegill; a young drag queen returns home to die. At the center of it all, a teenage boy’s suicide resonates through the lives of those closest to him. The poems in Bruce Snider’s Paradise, Indiana describe a place where mundane events neighbor the most harrowing.
Shaped by the author’s experiences growing up in rural Indiana, Snider investigates the landscapes traditionally claimed by male poets such as James Wright, James Dickey and Richard Hugo, whose visions of place rarely, if ever, included the presence of gays and lesbians. Paradise, Indiana envisions a seldom recorded rural America, one where everything exists side by side: the county fair and an abandoned small town gay bar, farmers and cross-dressers, death and hope, beauty and despair.
“There's a deep and complicated life in this land's interior…Underneath beats a thousand fragile hearts, their sensitive, furtive gestures. Bruce Snider's version of paradise accounts for those souls, makes a haven for them amidst the roadkill and the rapeseed, among the monster trucks and holy scriptures…Nothing in Snider's America is ever lost: not love, not beauty, not the first furtive kisses of adolescent boys. In this paradise, no one form of pleasure takes dominion over the others.”
—D.A. Powell, author of Chronic
These powerful eloquent poems explore the difference between the place we make and the place that makes us. The landscape of erotic memory, the vista of long-ago regret join with far more plainspoken pieces of territory, such as gas pumps and cornfields and an uncle’s truck bed to make a believable and memorable world. This is a wonderful collection.
—Eavan Boland, author of Domestic Violence
What Snider reminds us in these achingly beautiful poems is that one can neither love nor hate the place from which we come. These places divide us “like one of those snowy Indiana towns / with names like Paradise or Liberty.” These places remind us we are divided things, all of us divided to the very core.
—C. Dale Young, author of Torn
“….an essential addition to any collection of LGBT literature. That said, Snider’s poems are also just plain good…Snider is a master of the quiet moment, his memory-driven narratives slowly unfolding until the accumulation becomes a kind of redemption, which is what all poetry should aspire to.”
—James Crews, Prairie Schooner Blog