In Riceland, Bledsoe is unswerving in his depiction of the beauty, despair, and bludgeoning cruelty of life on an Arkansas farm. Be prepared—stark and startlingly revealing, these poems will sear your soul.
--Jo McDougall, author of Dirt, Satisfied With Havoc, and Daddy’s Money
C. L Bledsoe’s Riceland is full of natural wonder. Bledsoe pays attention and documents daily life with skill and cunning and we are lucky to have such a poet in our midst. At times he reminds me of Jim Harrison, in his ruthless eye for man’s connection to nature and his search for balance, in an increasingly severe world. Bledsoe writes equally well about farming, about the physical world, about place, and about family. Riceland is a book to contemplate, to help see through a true poet’s eyes and to read again for its hard-won grace and gentle wisdom.
--Corey Mesler, author of Some Identity Problems and The Ballad of the Two Tom Mores
“I know how to grow things, and I know how to kill them," writes C. L. Bledsoe in Riceland, a book set in the rice fields and dirt roads of rural Arkansas at the end of the twentieth century. Bledsoe captures the darkness, violence, and longing of a young man growing up at a time, when so many family farms, like his father's, are going under. The death of the family farm is the larger theme, but the poems about his mother--and his
inability, as a child, to understand the Huntington's disease that cripples and eventually destroys her--are the heartbreaking heart of the book. In a world that makes no sense, he approaches adulthood "wishing time would stop, speed up, something." Although he tells us, after a dream of rabbit hunting on the lost farm, that "nothing could console me," there is a consolation in the dark beauty of these poems.
--Ed Madden, author of Signals and Prodigal Variations
In Riceland, CL Bledsoe has written about his childhood in rural Arkansas, which is something I'm an expert on, having lived one myself. Growing up in places like that is all about animals, alive and killed; big, rough fathers you love and fear; mothers and sisters you can't understand. CL captures it all beautifully in this skillfully written arc of poems, filled with images of memories of a childhood which, like most childhoods, is fully tied to place. This place is Riceland.
--Dale Wisely, general editor, RightHandPointing.com and LeftHandWaving.com
Few books have the kind of thematic integrity one finds in Riceland. Riceland reminds me of how I felt toward Sherwood Anderson’s book, Winesburg, Ohio…Bledsoe presents the experience of what it was like to grow up in the redneck south in the Mississippi River Delta in one of the poorest areas of the country…This is what Bledsoe does so well, he tells us unforgettably what it was like to live there – there in Eastern Arkansas where a father raised soybeans, rice, cattle and catfish to make a hard-earned living. Bledsoe offers scraps of life with many lines that will be remembered. The fact that Bledsoe grew up out of this experience to become the writer he has become only makes the story and the struggle more remarkable. Riceland is a singular book by an exceptional poet...
--Peter Krok, editor of the Schuylkill Valley Journal, author of Looking For an Eye.