Price Reduced Again (Backpack Press 2009) – Julie Buffaloe-Yoder


Price Reduced Again is a chapbook that shows resilience and heart, illustrating the very human effects of economic hardship, and deftly balancing that by showing the reader an unwavering strength of character, in both the in narrator’s voice and that of the people the collection so convincingly portrays.

Heartache is clear in Price Reduced Again. Buffaloe-Yoder shows suffering close up, through poems that are both mini-narratives and character portraits, and convincing ones at that. You really feel like you’re in North Carolina when you read them – the authenticity of her writing is highly refreshing. From word choice to phrasing, there’s an absence of artifice, such as in ‘Millie Willis Works as a Cashier’ an employee of Jo Jo’s Groceries

Except now
Jo Jo got bought out.
They bulldozed
the old place and built
Good Earth Groceries.

So Millie Willis
sells organic food
she can’t afford
and buys blue
reduced for
quick sale chuck
at a discount store.

Equally effective are the poems where Buffaloe-Yoder places herself in the scene and the reader is reminded that she is living this too, such as in ‘She Told Me Money Does Not Buy Happiness, Then She Hopped in Her BMW and Drove Away’ (which you can read in full here.)

It buys a life where you
have so much dignity
you walk by
a fountain of coins
and have no desire
to dive in

Hardship is a common theme, exemplified in poems like ‘Pawn Shop Blues’ or ‘I Owe’ but so is Defiance, through strength of human spirit such as in ‘The Man in the Dark’ or the perfect closing poem ‘We’ll Call it Our Sweet Beulah Land’ where the writer dreams of a home with

a big porch
that will wrap around our soul
like a gold Caroline moon
through wisteria vines

Buffaloe-Yoder writes with confidence and a real sense of flow and the conversational voice, which allows her observations to take centre-stage. Often these observations reveal a bitter humour – in poems like ‘American Express’ or ‘Tiffany At the Soup Kitchen’ or the wonderfully cutting ‘ Reality Show’ – available in full here. It’s a standout piece that makes its point in masterfully with a simple juxtaposition.

This is a chapbook that I’ve had for some time and have been meaning to review, because it is a worthwhile addition to anyone’s shelf. You can’t help but be moved by the stories within, Julie Buffaloe-Yoder and Backpack Press have put together something lasting and authentic, it’s well worth the price.

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