by Joe Survant
From the 2002 paperback (University Press of Florida):
Rafting Rise is a terrific book, a richly detailed evocation of an entire world, and an important contribution to the literature of the rural South.
Rafting Rise has the strength of extended narrative and the quickness of lyric poetry. There is a haunting, visionary quality to Joe Survants dramatic poem, bringing to life a world of log rafting and floodplain dwellers along the Rough and Green Rivers in 1916 and 1917. The sections are snapshots and ballads of witness, a counterpoint of voices that open a window on the long-ago time and place, of giant catfish and spells, logjams and river witch. The phrases shine and the lines sing out, and the dead come back and speak again, as the real enters the realm of legend.
Joe Survant writes about turn-of-the-century backwoods America with an uncanny sense of firsthand knowledge. He knows whereof he writes, and he writes with an authority that derives from a deep-seated respect for the lives of river folk and the lone inhabitants of womenless shacks. And for all the harsh realities of a life hacked out of such rough terrain, Mr. Survant never overlooks the beauty of sycamores grazing by the creek, wild grapes growing in the river bottoms, or a thicket lit by trumpet weed. To read this book is to enter a world, and to follow its narrative is to be carried on the current of a deeply compelling adventure.
Joe Survant is professor of English at Western Kentucky University. He is the author of The Presence of Snow in the Tropics; Anne and Alpheus, 1842-1882, winner of the Arkansas Poetry Award; and We Will All Be Changed.