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Book Review: Nail poetry? High adventure? Pick one or both for a good read

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Lots of people don't like poetry because they figure the subject matter is full of highfalutin' stuff they have no interest in, like knights of the round table or beautiful sunsets or romantic rendezvous.

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Those folks should give poetry another try and read a book like the just published "Nails," by Larry Schug (North Star Press of St. Cloud, $12.95 paper).

Schug, a recycling coordinator at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn., has been a Minnesota Book Award finalist and a Midwest Book Award Finalist. He's the recipient of a Pushcart Prize nomination and a McKnight Fellowship for Writers.

Little wonder, for he's a fine poet who deals with the commonplace in life -- stuff like nails.

As someone who couldn't drive a two-penny nail into soft pine without bending it, I read all 111 poems about nails in Schug's new volume. Some were clever, some musical, some hilarious, some sacred, some profane, and all had an important point to make.

Here's a sampling:

#6

The old house

where I've lived

a hundred years

has become passé,

heartlessly demolished.

I plan my revenge;

wait for the tire

of the developer's

Cadillac.

#12

But, Judge, I cried, please listen

There was no felony in my intent.

I tried to penetrate a wooden heart;

My only crime was that I bent.

I was driven crooked, Judge;

Go ahead and ask the hammer.

But the judge answered with his gaze

and threw me in the slammer.

The Judge is a union carpenter,

has no use for crooked nails,

no desire to straighten me out,

so I rust in a leaky pail.

And, finally, #36, which our politicians might do well to read:

All the candidates

seem galvanized in the belief

that this house can be held together

with only one kind of nail;

a nail

that will hold on shingles

as well as anchor the foundation.

No wonder

we keep getting snagged and scratched,

no wonder beams buckle,

walls fall.

Everyone but the politicians

seems to see

the first thing that needs fixin'

is the old rotten planks

they're standing on.

***

Interested in high adventure? Try "The Ledge," by Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughan (Ballantine Books, $28). It's the story of Jim Davidson and Mike Price who, in 1992, stood atop Mount Rainier celebrating a successful climb.

Unfortunately, on the way down a cave-in plunged them deep into a glacial 80-foot crevasse. Mike Price died, but Davidson clung onto a ledge and managed to scramble up the crevasse to safety, to face his wife, his parents, Price's parents.

One of the most touching scenes occurs when he finally safe and he writes a letter to his now dead friend, Price. Collaborating with Davidson is Kevin Vaughan veteran Denver Post reporter, who knows how to tell a story.

Dave Wood is a past vice president of the National Book Critics Circle and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Phone him at 715-426-9554.

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