Lines on Lake Winnebago

Gary C. Busha | Lines on Lake Winnebago | 33 pages | $8.00 | Marsh River Editions | M233 Marsh Road | Marshfield, Wisconsin 54449

To Gary C. Busha, life is the sound of one man fishing. Lake Winnebago (located in East Central Wisconsin) plays host to guys in boats, guys sitting over ice holes, guys drinking schnapps and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and guys standing under maple trees waiting for the big one to take the bait. It’s Zen meditation with worms and fishing rods. Busha’s Lines On Lake Winnebago is a reflection on life in sparse, conversational language. His poems and reflections are as effortless as the act of casting and reeling. In Getting Hooked he notes:

“Each fishing day / adds to my memories of / a star-clear night. / drunk with fresh life.” And in Portrait of Dock Fishing he sees “Old men with big yellow bellies / remember themselves as lean river boys / fishing together from the docks.”

There are no existential crisies or drunken diatribes against the insanity of life here. No shock rocks to grab your mind, but rather a numinous embracing of the freedom found on Lake Winnebago doing almost nothing. Ham and Cheeses on Rye:

“I am an old man fishing in the rain / on my sagging dock, without a fish in miles- / yet, it’s a perfect day for fishing.” #6 Hooks “on the dock, the scent of weeds, / wet wood, and rain hangs over the water. / The scales fly up like hailstones. / He hears a roll of thunder and feels / scales and raindrops fall in his hair.”

charles01But beyond the beauty of these plain-spoken poems is the production quality of this fine looking chapbook. The cover jacket, photo reproductions, and cardstock are all well chosen making this not just a great chap to read, but a wonderful chap to hold. Gary Busha goes deep into common experience and nets rich imagery with still, clear meanings. — Charles Ries

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4 thoughts on “Lines on Lake Winnebago

  1. Mariann Ritzer January 12, 2015 / 9:20 am

    Gary Busha writes about fishing on Lake Winnebago the way some poets write about love. Some days “…the baited nightcrawler / scrapes bottom / only to tempt, / entice.” Some days “Nothing bites.” Some days “To see sunrise / in the web of a perch tail / is a technicolor dream.” Go fishing with Busha. With his words at the end of your line, you’ll fall in love with the “lean river boys” and the “old men with big yellow bellies.” His “hooks hold worms— / tantalizing treats that beckon with / a squirming that says come hither— / I’ve got nothing to hide, come and / get me…”
    — Mariann Ritzer author of An Evening on Mildred Street, How to Fall Out of Love, and Once I Loved Him Madly

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  2. Michael Koehler January 8, 2015 / 3:13 pm

    These poems taste like wine—they warm going down, can raise a shiver the body is helpless to prevent. I can only read two or three of these poems at a time, before I stop to reflect, remember, while completely under the spell of a primal song. Then, I pick up the story again. What we have here is the flowering of a personal mythology. Joseph Campbell has asked us what myth do we live, and this is Gary Busha’s answer. Stories need a stage—Lake Winnebago. And actors: father, friends, family. Stories need the deep image—a great fish turning below the ice, and its slow descent. Add to this the need for myth to be bigger than our lives or world, stronger than the elements, and elusive as brown pincers hidden under shore rocks.

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  3. Jim Higgins January 8, 2015 / 3:11 pm

    People who prize words as much as they do fish may want to bring Gary C. Busha’s new 33-page chapbook along with their tackle box…. These plain-spoken poems blend detailed observations drawn from angling with coming-of-age anecdotes and an occasional barb of philosophy.

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  4. Nadine S. St. Louis January 8, 2015 / 3:10 pm

    Lines on Lake Winnebago offers Gary Busha at his best, the language spare and quietly conversational, carefully chosen to evoke all the senses. These vivid moments in one fisherman’s life become a celebration of experience, from the apprenticeship of youth to the reflectiveness of age.

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