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Chapbook of Poetry by
Francis Fike Published

Posted December 7, 2000

HOLLAND -- "Off and On," a chapbook of poetry by Francis Fike, professor emeritus of English at Hope College, has recently been published by Robert L. Barth, publisher, of Edgewood, Ky.

"Off and On" is Fike's fourth book of poetry. "Underbrush" was published in 1986 and "In the Same Rivers" in 1989, both by Robert L. Barth. "After the Serpent's Word" was published by Fithian Press in Santa Barbara, Calif. His poems have also been published in many well- known literary journals, including "The Classical Outlook," "The Epigrammatist," "The Formalist," "Hellas," and "The Southern Review."

"Off and On" is dedicated to George Fike, the poet's grandfather, who forms the subject of the opening poem, the only free-verse poem in the book. Eight other poems deal with subjects related in one way or another to the dedicatee. "Haying" tells of that activity on the poet's grandfather's farm. "Walking by the Brook" revives a Renaissance verse form, "Poulter's Measure," to present a description of a rural scene, and leads to a poem about an "Encounter" with a tenant spider inside the house. "Turnpike Kill" was written about the roadkill observed along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

The human pride involved in dangerous technology leads to a poem about "Icarus," the mythical character who, having been supplied by wings of feather and wax by his father, flew too close to the sun and lost them and thus his life. Human pride and its stance of religious disbelief are the subject of "Sabbath Morning," an eight-stanza long poem in blank verse replying to Wallace Stevens' poem "Sunday Morning," which questions the reality of Christian belief in resurrection and afterlife. The book ends with two hymns, one on the Holy Communion evoked in "Sabbath Morning," and a "Hymn of Praise," which notes a suggested tune for singing.

Well-known poet and critic X. J. Kennedy has written of Fike's poetry that it "finds grace and ceremony in the ordinary... Fike aims high: clearly he sets himself to write in the great tradition of those who insisted, like Hardy and the late master formalist Yvor Winters, on clear sense, moral insight, and tightly controlled craft."

Fike received his B.A. from Duke University and a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary. He was awarded a Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing at Stanford University, where he earned an M.A. in creative writing (poetry), with Yvor Winters as his mentor, then a Ph.D. with an emphasis in Victorian literature. He joined the Hope College faculty in 1968 and taught literature and creative writing classes here until his retirement in 1998. Prior to coming to Hope, he taught previously at Cornell University.

In addition to his poetry, he is author of many scholarly articles and reviews, including studies of a wide range of British and American literature and studies combining theology and literature. He has also published personal essays, most notably "A Skulk of Foxes," which appeared in "Audubon" magazine in 1984. He currently serves as poetry editor for "Perspectives" magazine.

Copies of "After the Serpent's Word" are available from the college's Hope-Geneva Bookstore. "Off and On" is available from Robert L. Barth, 3122 Royal Windsor Drive, Edgewood, KY 41017 (unsigned copies at $5; signed copies with an additional autograph poem at $7.50).

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