From Publishers Weekly
The youngest member of Lewis and Clark's adventure, George Shannon rode off by himself to retrieve some lost horses, but got lost amid the endless buffalo pastures in what is now Nebraska. McGrath's book-length poem follows Shannon's thoughts, hopes and observations during his time alone. The young man faces practical difficulties: how will he hunt without bullets, how cook his food? I am troubled to light a fire/ Lest it be the Sioux/ That take it as a signal. As the poem continues, Shannon's musings turn to theology, national destiny and (since he is 18) sex: If my thoughts arise/ Direct from this land/ How other than God-ordained/ Could they be? Neat visual effects (one page bears only the single word buffalo) complement McGrath's sharp focus on his single character's mind. Will he survive? (Such a hunter as myself/ With game abounding to wither & starve/ Seems unlucky.) Will he find his way back to his posse? Will America realize its own destiny? Should it? McGrath's careful poem comes a few years after Lewis and Clark–themed novels (by Brian Hall and Diane Glancy), a bit late for the Lewis and Clark centennial; the poem should win notice on its very accessible merits nonetheless. (June)
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On August 26, 1804, Lewis and Clark assigned two men the task of rounding up two runaway horses. The next day one man but neither of the horses nor 19-year-old George Shannon rejoined the expedition. After 16 days, the expedition came upon Shannon, starved into inactivity but alive. He seemed to have overshot the line of march. The best educated of Lewis and Clark’s men, who later studied law and became a judge, Shannon never wrote up his adventure (or adventures, for he got lost again later that year). McGrath’s engrossing and lyrical, 15-part dramatic monologue (one part per day, starting August 27) does the job for him, vividly realizing an intelligent, self-possessed youngster, a little impetuous, of whom we feel it would be a shame if he expired among the buffalo. Shannon has bits of the poet, the painter, and the historian in him, such that he appreciates the singularity and the spirituality of his experience, not just its loneliness and danger. --Ray Olson