The title’s object of a preposition, the backhoe’s shadow, is mentioned in the opening poem, entitled, “Jones Valley.” In this poem, this shadow is an object that serves as a symbol of the transition from a generation close to nature to a generation dependent upon machines. In the shadow of the backhoe, workers find shade, unlike previous generations who found shade under a walnut tree that was broken by wind only to give way to a cedar whose shade in meager. Those who experienced both generations, the poet relates, are “too past loss to grieve.” The backhoe, the poem’s words make clear, has been digging a grave in a family cemetery. What is being buried is not just a person, but an era, deserted by the poet’s family and neighbors who no longer farm here. “The poems in this fine collection are by turns plainspoken, meticulous, bereft, and at times, outrageously funny. Such a combination is rich and inviting. . . This is a book of honesty and affection and hard-won intelligence. One reads it and is transported and more firmly planted at once-exactly what we seek from poetry.” --Maurice Manning. “In the Backhoe's Shadow celebrates the bonds of family in a time of rapid change. The poems display extraordinarily precise, photographic details of work and memory, childhood games and pets, sad country songs. Some are poems of dailiness and humor, and the legacy of a certain time and place. Holmes is a gifted storyteller of the struggle with contemporary uncertainties, of deep kinship, of love.” --Robert Morgan. Thomas Alan Holmes teaches at East Tennessee State University and is the co-editor of three scholarly books.
Oak Ridge, Tennessee: Iris Press, 2022. 91 pages with notes. Trade paperback.