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James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief

Midwest Book Review

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The Poetry Shelf

9780989724203-JacketCattails and Sagebrush

Victor Pearn

Indian Paintbrush Poets

1600 Edora Court, Suite D

Fort Collins, CO80525

ISBN 978-09897242-0-3, $27.95,

Cover photos by John Eisele

Poetry is a form of literary art which uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language – such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre – to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning. “Cattails and Sagebrush” is an 86 page compilation of poetry by Victor Pearn and well deserves the definition of ‘literary art.’ The subject matter of his musings range from the Colorado tundra to the Chinese tomb of Confucius, and from our three daily meals to a local park. Deftly written and using words the way an artist uses paints, the prose poetry of Victor Pearn creates memorable images that last long after this anthology has been set back on the shelf. Three Things Not Omitted: The Farmer’s bank on the West side of the / square was the tallest building in town and / towered seven stories into the sky. // On the East side of the square / there was a jewelry store. // The park had a flagpole with / old glory waving in the breeze.

Praise for Cattails and Sagebrush

Stories abound in this book, and a river runs through it.

The stories are random  and recurring, like memory itself. Family history. A conversation struck up with an old man in a bar. A long ago Pony League team undefeated. A young marine walking in an empty baseball field in Oahu, reading his college acceptance letter. The stories,

like the cue balls Pearn describes in another poem, touch each other and change trajectories.

The river is the Poudre — born in the Rocky Mountains, eastern slope, flowing through Fort Collins. Pearn gives his readers its colors and

its creatures in many lights and seasons. Like memory, it is a place to return to, a source of renewal.

There is another  force moving these poems, one not found so much in contemporary writing. Call it boundless hope. In his poem “Three Square Meals,” Pearn says he “did not have the American dream” because he never wanted to be rich; he

just wanted to be a writer. But the American dream is writ large in these poems — true grit and work and the possibility of glory in baseball fields and boot camp — and  in poetry. Many of the poems in this book are conversations with poetry and poets that begin in a seventh-grade classroom and are now part of his outlook and his art.

The American dream shines in Pearn’s memories of Jacksonville, Illinois, in the good days of the 1950s and 60s when  there  was work  in huge and colorful variety for anyone who was willing to do it. But he also tells some 21st centuries stories of hope and struggle. His wife, a recent immigrant from China, confronts the gulf between her education and the jobs available to her. They walk the bureaucratic maze in their efforts to bring her son to the United States.

This is a book to read and return to.



Victor Pearn’s Cattails and Sagebrush embraces sacred locales as various as Colorado tundra, Illinois prairie,

and the Chinese tomb of Confucius. Of memory and our current moment Pearn weaves a fetching tapestry of Big Macs, redwing blackbirds, immigrants, and wild gaillardia’s blooming sunrise. Pearn shows himself to be both master American storyteller and lyric poet in the model of the ancient Chinese. He evokes with equal fervor tales of small town ballgames and his ecstatic reverie at Pelican Pond. Patient and insightful, Pearn is a poet of keen eye and ear for whom sound and image compose the very bread of life.


Poet Laureate of Illinois


Victor Pearn surprises and delights us in Cattails and Sagebrush with poems that invite us not just to see the world anew, but to embrace it with all of our senses.


Professor of English

University of Tennessee, Chattanooga

About Victor Pearn

Photo by Patrick Kramer
Photo by Patrick Kramer

Victor Pearn, born in Jacksonville, Illinois, in 1950, began writing poems at night as

a radio repairman in the Marine Corps. He was on the Dean’s List studying at Lincoln Land Community College and leaped

his sophomore year entering Sangamon State University (now University of Illinois, Springfield) as a junior. He did an internship writing a journal in Madrid, Spain. He graduated with a degree in Individual Option double-majoring in anthropology and creative writing. His

graduate degree was in creative writing at Colorado University. He has written  two novels, Light Across the Alley and Point Guard, and one sports biography,  Dream Season. He has six poetry  chapbooks:

Blame it on a Lightning Bolt, Swans Pausing, Pyromaniac, Dancing  Bears, Cryptozoology Poems, and Postcard from Athens. He has four poetry books: American Western Song, Devil Dogs and Jarheads, Apricot Harvest, and cattails and sagebrush. In 2005 he started Pearn and Associates, Inc., and has published  32 books from  authors  all over the United States. He lives and writes in Colorado.