AMERICANA by Dana Wilde of the Bangor Daily News 01/22/07
AMERICANA, by Tom Lyford; Green Bough Publishing, Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, 2006; 40 pages, saddle-stitched, $5.
In Tom Lyford’s world, every passing moment is a blast from the past. Either his own, Dover-Foxcroft’s, or America’s, frequently all three together. The poems in his chapbook "Americana" recount stupid teen tricks, a moonlighting McDonald’s Santa in 1972, a teacher left behind, and real encounters with Sputnik, Johnny Cash and Roman candles as well as imaginary encounters so vivid they might as well have been real with J.D. Salinger, Bob Dylan, Stephen King and Wilford Brimley. He fondly keeps decades’ worth of T-shirts commemorating events he somehow attached himself to, like the improbable Red Sox championship of 2004.
Lyford’s world, in short, is a wedge of America as it existed in the 1950s, ’60s and afterward, which a lot of people, especially Mainers beyond a certain age, will recognize. It’s sort of innocent and vulgar, dorky and charming, and also, upon reflection, sort of scary:
...what the hell was I thinking
roaring my rice-rocket at 65
down those breathless
horseshoe curves on the
But mostly, as those who have attended Lyford’s public readings around central Maine know, he has a relentless sense of humor about it all.
it’s fun riding around in stephen king
up here in maine, smack dab in the middle of
needful things and a bag of bones –
hey phyl, LOOK! The pittsfield exit!
that’s where rachel creed’s chevette mysteriously
loses power on her way back home
in pet sematary!
but phyllis never looks …
could care less …
won’t even read stephen king …
In these poems you do not encounter the verbal polish of the literary journal poets. But you do get unabashed pictures of how postwar backwater Maine has tagged along with the rest of the world. Lyford is a sort of anti-Bukowski — direct, funny and down-to-earth, but demonless.
Tom Lyford, 60, is a retired English teacher and lifelong resident of Dover-Foxcroft. He kept to himself as a poet until recent years when he has published five chapbooks and given readings at the Schoodic Arts Festival, Borders Books and several Maine libraries. His works are available at www.festivo.org/lyford.