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Hugging This Rock: Poems of Earth & Sky, Love & War Paperback – October 27, 2017
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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"Eric Chandler's pilot perspective allows for attention to detail--the strength behind a handmade sawhorse, the terrain of mountains seen from above, the measures parents take to protect their children, a pre-deployment bar conversation--while simultaneously seeing the broad landscape of identity." --Lisa Stice, author of the poetry collection Uniform
"It's always a pleasure when a poet takes the world you know and hands it back to you at a new tilt. [...] Chandler's lens brings us our familiar world from thousands of feet above and then zooms into close range, so that [...] we can feel what matters far more keenly than we could on our own." --Andria Williams, author of the novel The Longest Night
"This is stealth poetry. With each poem, Chandler glides you gently along, then, BOOM! He hits when you least expect it." --Susanne Aspley, author of the novel Granola, MN
"Chandler's figure-of-speech-"hugging this rock"-suggests humility, a worldview and sense of self in which being a fighter jock is only a small part of an overall identity and life, with the most important aspects centered on human relationships, which must be defined by care and trust." --Peter Molin, author of the Time Now blog
About the Author
Cross-country skier, marathon runner, and former F-16 fighter pilot, Eric Chandler is author of the 2013 collection of essays Outside Duluth, and the 2014 military-themed novella Down In It. His fiction, non-fiction, and award-winning poetry have appeared widely both on-line and in print. In 2016, Chandler was the first-prize poetry recipient of the inaugural Col. Darron L. Wright Memorial Writing Award administered by the on-line literary journal Line of Advance. He repeated as the poetry winner in 2017. He is a member of the Lake Superior Writers organization, the Outdoor Writers Association of America, and the Military Writers Guild. A 1989 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Chandler retired after a 24-year military flying career with the U.S. Air Force and the Minnesota Air National Guard. He is a veteran with three deployments to Saudi Arabia for Operation Southern Watch; three deployments to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom; and one to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. He flew more than 3,000 hours and 145 combat sorties in the F-16. Now a commercial airline pilot, Chandler lives in Duluth, Minnesota with his wife, two children, and a dog named Leo.
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Ladies and Gentlemen, ensure your tray tables are in their full upright position and your seat belt is correctly fastened. Hugging this Rock by Eric Chandler will zing you across the sky, through the woods, into love and out of war, in this collection of prize-winning poetry.
Chandler’s previous publications include Down in It, a turbulent war fiction novella, and Outside Duluth, (an essay collection that you’ll swear autoplays Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life in the background).
Hugging this Rock is masterfully formatted into four parts of the extremes: Earth, Sky, Love and War. As a military pilot, Chandler’s war is in the sky and far away, in Afghanistan and Iraq. As a father and husband, his love is on earth with his family, in and around Duluth, Mn.
Chandler exposes the gut-wrenching intensity of the mundane in several poems as in Sawhorse, about an elderly neighbor and Walking from Korea, about a local vet who wanders around and picks up trash.
We’re provided a snapshot of Chandler’s fighter pilot experience in View-Master, as we see the contradictory beauty of what he saw, through the allusion of a childhood toy.
As a parent, I felt sucker punched reading I Can Already Hear It. We can imagine the silence after all the laughing, crying, yelling, arguing, and practicing is done- the kids grow up and move out. Chandler then ruthlessly drives home the point as he follows up with the poem, It Happened Anyway.
In Looking Up, we’re reminded that rescue dogs tend to pick their owners. Chandler’s rescue dog Leo always looks up when a plane goes by, just like his human.
And oh, the graffiti in the port-a-potties while deployed overseas is real. Chandler recalls his favorite, “Toodles, Afghanistan”, in his poem, Air Born. (As a vet, my favorite was in Kuwait that read “Saddam sucks”.)
The most intense poem for me was The Old Man of the Mountain. New Hampshire’s legendary and beloved ‘Old Man of the Mountain’ mountain face crumbled and fell (in 2003), not unlike many men who endured too much. In the poem, Chandler falls in the middle of the night, in the bathroom, after a long day of grieving and harder night drinking. His father checks on him, picks him up and gets him safely to bed. The son becomes the old man of the mountain, and his ‘old man’ is the one that picks him up, probably like he always did, since he first fell off a bike.
But that’s the nature of this collection. Huge emotions are concealed in what at first seem to be simple poems. It’s stealth poetry at it’s finest.