On the low rising hills to mountains off the California coast just south of our loved campus, a young man found beauty and inspiration. He found friends and while he spent time with them, he wrote a collection of poems to commemorate them. In his book Whale Watching with a Boy and a Goat, Terry Gifford expresses his deepest reflections of our humble home.
The book is separated into two sections. The first section is entitled “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” and the second is “Oikoumene”. What these titles have to do with the content, I have no idea, they seem to have no relations. But nonetheless that’s how they are separated.
There are many poems in this collection that are written specifically about the small town of Montara, even one including the nomicre. Entitled “Montara Meditation”, the poem is about the rising consumption of natural open space. From the Unabomber to UC Davis’ sports hall being built too close to Burrowing Owls to John Muir’s railroad, all the way to the Devil’s Slide tunnel debate. But even through all of this, he simply tries to continue watching whales.
Then there is the title poem, which is an autobiographical account of hiking Montara Mountain with a friend’s son (whom I know personally). He recounts the events of the day, painting a picture of your typical coast side day, including the fog drifting over the hills, announcing nightfall.
Aside from the familiar scenery and topics, Gifford’s writing style is both fresh yet monotonous. There is nothing really outstanding about his poetry, just simple memories of a comfortable home town. What is interesting about it though, is that some of the poems’ titles are actually the first line. So that either they flow right into the body or the poem starts in the middle of a thought.
A simply written book for simply living people. It may be hard to find this book, since it’s written by a no name poet from the coast, but I hope you’ll keep your eyes open for it.