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The Land We Dreamed: Poems

by Joe Survant

Availablepaperback$19.95 978-0-8131-4458-0
Kentucky Voices
148 pages  Pubdate: 04/08/2014  5.5 x 8.5  2 b&w photos, 2 maps

Weaving together universal themes of family, geography, and death with images of America’s frontier landscape, former Kentucky Poet Laureate Joe Survant has been lauded for his ability to capture the spirit of the land and its people. Kliatt magazine has praised his work, stating, “Survant’s words sing. . . . This is storytelling at its best.”

Exploring the pre-Columbian and frontier history of the commonwealth, The Land We Dreamed is the final installment in the poet’s trilogy on rural Kentucky. The poems in the book feature several well-known figures and their stories, reimagining Dr. Thomas Walker’s naming of the Cumberland Plateau, Mary Draper Ingles’s treacherous journey from Big Bone Lick to western Virginia following her abduction by Native Americans, and Daniel Boone’s ruminations on the fall season of 1770. Survant also explores the Bluegrass from the perspectives of the chiefs of the Shawnee and Seneca tribes.

Drawing on primary documents such as the seventeenth-century reports of French Jesuit missionaries, excerpts from the Draper manuscripts, and the journals of pioneers George Croghan and Christopher Gist, this collection surveys a broad and under-recorded history. Poem by poem, Survant takes readers on an imaginative expedition—through unspoiled Shawnee cornfields, down the wild Ohio River, and into the depths of the region’s ancient coal seams.

The recipient of the State Street Press Poetry Prize, the Arkansas Poetry Prize, and other accolades, Joe Survant is the author of We Will All Be Changed; Anne and Alpheus, 1842–1882; Rafting Rise; and The Presence of Snow in the Tropics. His poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, the American Voice, Chelsea, Poet and Critic, Stand Magazine (U.K.), the Columbia Review, Cincinnati Poetry Review, Nimrod, Hellas, Exquisite Corpse, and the Sow's Ear Poetry Review. He served as Kentucky’s Poet Laureate from 2003 to 2004.

The Land We Dreamed is the fruit of careful imagination and profound contemplation. A finely detailed illumination of a time that has only been vaguely grasped before, Survant has considered accounts from Jesuit missionaries, early naturalists, Indians, and settlers, and assembled this patchwork into whole cloth. -- Maurice Manning, author of The Common Man, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry

Survant’s poems give voice to both historical and imagined characters, filling some of the gaps that occur in history's elliptical record of major events by focusing on individual voices and representative monologues. . . . The composite of these various voices offers a fresh look at the region and a feel for what life must have been like in a state of nature. -- Richard Taylor, author of Rare Bird: Sonnets on the Life of John James Audubon

This book of dramatic monologues is, as Joe Survant tells us in his introduction, a "net of imagination cast into history." The physical difficulties of life in eighteenth-century "kentuckee" are made vibrantly clear, but it is the emotional hardship, loss and its aftermath, that Survant excels in conveying. With fresh tropes and stunning images he delves into the "dark patina of sorrow." Kentucky is Joe Survant's native land and loss is his ground, a "knowledge [that] can be read in nature, however brutal the book." -Natasha Sajé, author of VIvarium

"The poems in "The Land We Dreamed " are visions of a place , Kentucky, through deep time, all those years of beauty and blood. They give us not just how it was, but how it felt. It's a true gift." - Kim Stanley Robinson, author of "Shaman"

"I read Joe Survant’s “The Land We Dreamed” as a war story: hence, a story of loss and survival. The poet, known for his skillfully crafted dramatic lyrics, unfolds here the narratives of several spirited characters who, in a span of 150 years, brave wilderness, illness, violence, and bitter weather to make their way to the beautiful, bountiful land, “Kentucke.” Most tragic in the collection are the deaths of children, historic and imagined, often collateral damage, whose cries haunt its pages. Survant does not discriminate; he weaves the deaths, not only of Americans of European descent, but those of Native American, whose indefensible losses include their native lands and ways of life. Who survives this history are our intrepid ancestors, white and brown; but none escape grief. Those of us who are native Kentuckians, or transplanted Kentuckians, cannot help but be moved by the stories Survant tells and the emotions he elicits in these understated, vivid, powerful, and moving poems." - Maureen Morehead, Spalding University's low-residency MFA Program in Creative Writing