Barbed Wire: Poetry and Photographs of the West

The term “barbed wire” has several connotations: impediment to a charging infantry in wartime, the fringe along the top of prison walls, or simply the taut strand marking boundaries and the end of the freedom know to an unfenced world. But the photograph on the dust jacket of the book Barbed Wire: Poetry and Photographs of the West with its leaning posts, its tangled strands of barbed wire, and the clutter of what appears to be baling wire around what might have been corner posts or gateposts suggest desolation. Whatever use the fence originally had, it has lost.

This picture, like most of the others in the book, has the paradoxical quality of leading gently with harsh materials. There is a kind of poignancy about the broken fences, the machines left to rust away, and the iron fences around the graves in the neglected cemetery. For the most part, the pictures are impressions rather than illustrations. The effect produced by the book results from the combining of the two arts. The two reinforce each other. The effect is not earthshaking, but gains strength from the fact that both poetry and pictures are close to the earth.

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