The Church in the Plains tells the story of a German Lutheran farming community whose members immigrated to Ohio in the 1830s. These poems focus on the community's relationship with the church and the land-the expanse of plains formerly wetlands drained and cultivated by forefathers-and how that relationship has changed since the 19th century. Farmers have always had a fraught relationship with development. It provided them with tractors and drainage tiles to farm the rich flood-plain soil yet also gave rise to a burgeoning urban population which oozes at a troubling pace toward family farms.
This collection attempts both to commemorate the history of an ancestral home and to cope with encroaching modernity and development. Where for instance do a grandmother's memories go when they bulldoze her childhood home to make way for another pre-fab neighborhood? How does this community continue to exist even as the church languishes?
Rachel Rinehart grew up in Chuckery Ohio and teaches at Marshall University in Huntington West Virginia. Her poems have appeared in journals including Prairie Schooner Mid-American Review Beloit Poetry Journal and Colorado Review. This is her first poetry collection.
"The Church in the Plains is anchored in stories of New World immigrants (here German Lutherans) from the 1800s to the present but to read Rachel Rinehart's collection as a historical chronicle would be like reading the voyage of Odysseus as a guide to Ithaca. Her poems often voiced by women from the perspective of birthing and 'this tearing of curtained flesh ' remind us that the great power of poetry in the words of a truly gifted storyteller can transmute events and lives into the wondrous and terrifying: a harrowing marriage to Siamese twins a baker of funeral pies each appropriate to the deceased a man who dreams his wife is a buzzard a vixen prowling the night woods merges with the Latin name of a constellation overhead. As the book evolves the ancestral language and character of the church give way to newer generations but Rinehart's vision is one of both loss and renewal. In an early poem a child is buried at sea in the last a child is the sole survivor of a car wreck. Even then the undercurrent of darkness and sorrow is present: 'Like Christ we too crawl into an ever-weltering world ' while a wind from the plains rises to a Kyrie - Lord have mercy unto us - as prayer and benediction. Rachel Rinehart has given us a truly beautiful earthy and fabulous book." - Peter Everwine - Author of Listening Long and Late Contest Judge
"From timber to beam Rachel Rhinehart's The Church in the Plains is built of beautifully hewn poems. A congregation of rural midwestern voices inhabits these pages and offers testimony of the sublime-spirited and broken-bodied. Rinehart's poetry reminds us that 'for every dog dead on the road /another limps home and the cock escapes/ the fox's jaws to crow a third time.'. This is a soul-searing and brilliant debut collection." -Amy Fleury author of Sympathetic Magic