Home > 22. Local Poets, Local Heroes > Ken Crawford’s Knowing the Wind–A Book Review

Ken Crawford’s Knowing the Wind–A Book Review

As hectic as RT’s existence has been this year, he hasn’t forgotten the promise he made (back in March!) to begin reviewing poetry collections by local authors.

And we have quite a collection to inaugurate this series of reviews: Knowing the Wind by Ken Crawford (illustrated by Tracy Herrmann).

Born and raised in Great Cacapon, West Virginia, Mr. Crawford fought in the South Pacific during WWII, then married and settled down in California, where he was a master mechanic at a chemical plant for 35 years. He started writing poetry on the long school-bus rides of his youth, and carried on the practice the rest of his life. KTW collects his poems from his middle years, 1965-1985.

The collection cites the early influence of King Arthur and the Round Table (perhaps the edition illustrated by Howard Pyle?).

Uh, oh, RT can feel some red flags going up: influenced by King Arthur, a book illustrated by a professional who worked at Hallmark Cards…is such poetry serious (at least by contemporary standards)? The answer is yes: Knowing the Wind is a collection of superior work.

There is nothing tricky or particularly technical about Mr. Crawford’s poetry–the poems are short, the diction is straightforward, the themes well known, the rhymes easily identifiable. If technique or the latest fads in poetry are what the reader seeks, he or she is directed elsewhere.

What we are dealing with here is broad life experience and wisdom; no hayseed is Mr. Crawford. Consider, for instance, the ending of “The Workplace”:

then think on it all (at least)

a year;

by then you may begin to know

that love, sweat, tears, and fears

and yes–

the workplace!

is built and measured

by the blood that

races hot within our hearts.

How seldom do we hear the workplace (and business) referred to in such frank terms! No quarterly profits, mega-mergers, stock quotes here, just the plain price of work laid out in terms that remind us of Winston Churchill and the perpetual war for survival. The line breaks and meter are varied in a subtle and satisfying way, the rhymes, unexpected and a little crafty, the themes seldom addressed (at least this cogently). And all in a tone that draws the reader in. Wisdom, indeed.

Drawing on its author’s early years, KTW has more than a few nature poems. This is a difficult genre to do right: maudlin sentimentality looms on one side of the poet, revulsion at physical reality (or the exploitation of natural resources), on the other. But nature is home to Mr. Crawford, and his fond memories of growing up in its midst are tempered by clear-sighted knowledge:

The stone wearied,

by roots,

by winter,

also knows the spring,

warmth, sun,

petals that touch

with love,

its crusty face.

(from “My Stone”)

or again:

Little acorn, how do you know

to be a great oak?

(from “Little Acorn”)

This is a god-bothered book, but this is the god of the vineyard, who creates beauty and love:

Love shall create oneness

where estrangement existed

(from “Alpha is Love”)

and again:

God don’t walk on people

with dirty feet,

I only thought he did,

(from “Living It”)

There is much more in Knowing the Wind: reflections on man and a newborn daughter, on mountains and mice tails. But what lingers is Mr. Ken Crawford, a life lived in wonder and wisdom, whether on a stone by the river, in a one-room schoolhouse, or in a chemical factory in California. It is a life worth revisiting, worth knowing.      RT

To order Knowing the Wind, fill out the order form at Anjali Online.

Photo: Chelidonium Majus; WikiCmns; Public Domain.

  1. June 10, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Oh, my… I just discovered the Rag Tree on the eve of honoring my dad’s life since his death in 2008. What a surprise! Thank you, to whomever posted this page. I look forward to returning and reading others’ poetry. If you would like to read a few more of dad’s poems, click here to go to my personal website: Anjali Online. And, yes, the order form is still available…. Namaste.


    • July 25, 2015 at 3:16 pm

      Anjali: Thanks for your gratifying note. I’ve visited your poetry page and, well, like father, like daughter. Your fine poetry certainly makes me think of his… RT

  2. June 10, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    What a lovely, perceptive review of my father’s poetry. He admired e.e. Cummings as well as the Romantic poets. I would add that his war poetry is heartbreaking, frank reflections. He was a medic in the South Pacific and it informs his poetry. Thank you for review in remembrance of my father whose heart and mind were large and generous.

  3. July 25, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Ms. Crawford: It’s always a pleasure to review the work of a gifted author. As for war: it was Dante who said that the proper subjects of poetry are love, virtue, and war. Your father’s writing offers an eloquent example of this. RT

  4. July 25, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    RT: Thanks for staying in touch. … I’m just curious as to how you “found” dad’s poetry. At a bookstore near WVU? or on my website by chance?
    Au revoir, a la prochaine fois! /ajc

  5. July 26, 2015 at 12:44 am

    ajc: i’ve never been to morgantown (tho i have been to wheeling). i was living in shepherdstown when i first ran across your father’s work in the Good Newspaper issued by the shep’town ministerial association (back in 2006, as i recall). a poetry buddy of mine, ed zahniser, told me very briefly about your father, and later i ran across a copy of knowing the wind at southwood books in martinsburg (now bank books). i currently live in martinsburg. i am an editor by trade. now you know something about me, including my rebellion against upper case letters, but what is it like to be one of the daughters of ken crawford? eric

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