CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Aug. 4, 2010 – Dr. Robert Hamblin, professor of English and director of the Center for Faulkner Studies at Southeast Missouri State University, is the author of Crossroads: Poems of a Mississippi Childhood, published this month by Time Being Books of St. Louis.
The 55 poems in the book describe people and events Hamblin remembers from his boyhood days at Brice’s Cross Roads, a northeast Mississippi rural community best known as the site of a famous Civil War battle.
“This is another book about historic preservation,” Hamblin says, alluding to his previous book, This House, This Town: One Couple’s Love Affair with a Historic House and an Old Town, a personal and family memoir that describes the restoration of a century-old house in Cape Girardeau.
“But this one treats preservation through recollection and retelling,” Hamblin adds, explaining that today the lone brick house and the church are the only buildings left in the community from the 1950s when his family lived there.
A Civil War monument is still there as well, documenting the Confederate victory led by Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry on June 10, 1864. A photograph of the monument appears on the cover of the book.
Hamblin’s parents owned and operated the crossroads general store that was located just across the road from the monument, and the front porch of the store served as a gathering place for local farmers, as well as historians and tourists who frequently visited the battlefield. A number of the poems in the book have their origin in these storefront gatherings.
According to Hamblin, the monument and the crossroads symbolize one of the major themes of the book, tradition versus change. As Hamblin explains, “Monuments represent the past. They are fixed, unmoving, resistant to change. Roads are open-ended, inviting travel and exploration. Individuals and communities must negotiate the tensions between the two.”
This is Hamblin’s fifth book of poems. His previous titles are Perpendicular Rain, From the Ground Up, Mind the Gap: Poems by an American in London, and Keeping Score: Sports Poems for Every Season.