Mark Todd's often lyrical poems are about the reality of the work, the moments of recognition, and even the reveries of an everyday, outdoor life on a ranch. As such, they may have an innate appeal to those of us who recognize both the romance and the tough reality of a life in those parts of the West where "Over ground that's broken/With ditch and arroyo ... Wire strings tales from steel yarn."


While sometimes the subject matter may resemble that of Cowboy poetry - even including a paeon to the well-used Western hat - the manner does not. Todd's work lacks the sentimentality (acceptable among even the best Cowboy poets, it seems) and his words often carry both the particularity of the good poet, and the good poet's subtle and telling use of metaphor. Todd, a professor of English at Western State College in Gunnison, Colo., brings these poems from his other life, that of a small-ranch owner who raises horses in the Cochetopa Hills, south of Gunnison.


The book will have special appeal to Coloradans who will recognize the home territory so lovingly and aptly described. But, I would bet it will hit the mark for those in any Western state, who will find - in lines like "Of posts smacked split-rock hard,/ Pounded and then sturdied,/ Wedged with flint and talus" - both the hardness and the beauty of the arid, rocky West. Wire Song, poems by Mark Todd with a foreword by Dana Gioia, Conundrum Press, Crested Butte, CO 81224; 2001. Hardcover: $21.95, 65 pages.