Mark Vinz, Long Distance: Poems. MWPH Books, Fairwater, WI. 2006. $12.50 + $2.50 s&h.
"These poems are filled with a sane, decent, clear-eyed melancholy. The world, and our life, has limits, and we reach them. 'These things that weigh me down. . . I’ll have to start giving away.' That’s Mark Vinz’s great gift to readers: memories of rooms, people, landscapes loved and named with clarity and affection, interior travels where the past finds wisdom in clouds, grass, kitchens, backroads." --Bill Holm
From the first moment of storm cloud in the first poem of Long Distance, to the face of the moon out the window at the end of the book, it is clear that Mark Vinz is in and of this great rolling middle of America. He knows and loves this place and these people he has lived among, these backroads, the mementos, the omens and the emblems of our lives.
... the quickest routes,
the name of every crop in those mysterious fields,
and where to find the best cafes.
... and somewhere in those
darkening hills and rain, lights are coming on,
the ones I still can't see but know are there.
And yet, as one must if he is truly to own his home place, Vinz is able to travel, imaginatively and in fact, as he does in the "Tour Guide" section of the book, to the British Isles and mainland Europe. Travel is a mirror which allows us to see ourselves "and whatever else we can only begin to imagine."
From Pamela Sund's review of Long Distance in High Plains Reader, February 23, 2006:
"Movement, in three sections of Mark Vinz's newest collection of poems, is the interplay between life-roads more traveled and Frost's 'less traveled' road. The familiar wide roads of love, labor, father and motherhood, family history, and genealogy of place form a cohesive neighborhood of subjects from which the poet, as lone traveler, creates poems that harbor nostalgia for ordered, respectful human relations. These true-to-prairie-life landscape works stand as testaments to Plains folk character and fortitude.... In a short tender work, Vinz describes the planting of lilacs on the Plains:
When they came West, the women brought them -
gifts, perhaps, from mothers to daughters
they knew they'd never see again -
for beauty's sake, a piece of home
... a shady place to nurture children
... reminders of what's lost or hidden
... of all that couldn't be cut down.
These lines serve as a metaphor for the poet's own work. Practicing in the West, a rather barren place according to some, the poet plants hardy works in collections like Long Distance, works that nurture, that beautify, that will last."
From Dave Wood's column in the River Falls Journal:
"Vinz isn't Miltonic. His topics come from close at hand. He considers stuff that we all see, but brings it closer and in doing so fulfills Robert Penn Warren's stricture that literature broaden and deepen the reader's understanding of life.... Gee, I went and blew an entire column on Mark Vinz. What better way to do it?"
From an unsigned review in Area Woman magazine, June-July 20-06:
"Mark Vinz talks to us of family, landscape, work, memory, travel, and kitchens in his new collection.... Vinz is one of us, eloquently reminding us of the beauty of the Midwest, the dignity of work and the inevitability of our family's impact.... Long Distance is another gift which leaves "us startled to share what we thought was ours alone."