Free Union

Poems by John Casteen


"John Casteen is a craftsman in his life and in his poems. Just as any good carpenter understands the wood upon his lathe, down to its xylem and its phloem, its roots, its weathered bark and leaves, Casteen knows language at its most cellular level; and he makes poems that are durable and elegant, solid not just for their construction but for the sense of stewardship that he brings to the task of writing. In the deepest sense, these poems are true: he does not shy away from the ethical problems of his age, nor does he reduce their complexities. What does it mean to sharpen tools, to hew and saw, to hunt, to take from the bountiful world? 'I owe a debt I don’t know how to repay.' But these poems are a most generous repayment, a fine new forest upon the land, one that will endure."
—D. A. Powell, author of Cocktails

The poems in this debut collection revolve around physical work, the Appalachian landscape, and family relationships. Casteen, for ten years a designer and builder of custom furniture, ranges from the farm to the shop floor, from the rivers of the Piedmont to the wooded shoulders of the Blue Ridge, and from the hyperattentiveness of childhood through the anxieties and joys of fatherhood.

The VQR Poetry Series

Page count: 88 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $19.95

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John Casteen's poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, Ploughshares, and other journals. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he lives in Earlysville, Virginia, where for ten years he was self-employed as a designer and builder of custom furniture. He teaches at Sweet Briar College, and serves on the editorial staff of Virginia Quarterly Review.