The Complete Poems



Originally published in 1991 and now in 1999 republished

in a



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“Budbill writes out of the real, contemporary, New England, not from the past, not from the cellar holes. He speaks from the New England which is Appalachia–poverty, exploitation and good people . . . with its trailers, its mad widows, its farmers expropriated by agribusiness. . . . Looking at the reality closely, he sees parts move in a unison–sometimes graceless, sometimes ugly, always resolved in a human wholeness.”

Donald Hall


The setting for Judevine happens to be the hills of rural northern New England, but it could be any place in America where poverty prevails and where the natural world is still a factor in people’s daily lives. David Budbill has been writing his lyrical, dark, funny, narrative poems about the people of Judevine for the past twenty years. This collection–which includes a number of poems never before published–brings them all together for the first time. But the result is more than a collection of individual poems: Judevinebecomes one continuous story with the form and feeling of an epic poem or a poetic novel.


David Budbill is one of the rare voices in modern American poetry–a writer who can see and speak outside of himself, who has what Wendell Berry calls “a loving interest in other people.” He writes with a direct simplicity and a deep passion.


Of his unforgettable characters, the poet Thomas McGrath once wrote, ” I know people of the kind David Budbill writes about and I am continually surprised at his ability to dramatize lives that seem outwardly so undramatic. Without him these people would not be heard from.”


And indeed, this is Budbill’s great achievement: In Judevine he has written a new American song–a song of the down-and-out, of the neglected and ignored, a song of the unsung.


Here’s what some other people have been saying about Judevine.


For twenty years, David Budbill has been writing about his small-town and rural Vermont neighbors–tree-farm laborers, mechanics, junk (“antique”) dealers, hardscrabble farmers–some of the most direct and clear-eyed poems of the half-century, at least . . . .
Budbill’s poems are prosaically straightforward and easy to read, but they have the rhythmic life of the best of Jeffers and are as large-souled and democratic as Whitman.
Although as full of New England salt as Frost’s, they are far more compassionate, more Christian in the finest sense of the word. For Budbill’s personae are the poor and oppressed, and he is as staunchly their advocate . . . as Sanburg ever was of “the People, yes.”
He is emotional . . . but not sentimental: his greatest single character, foul-mouthed Acadian laborer Antoine LaMotte, is as gross–and as vital–as Chaucer’s Wife of Bath.
Many are going to say Judevine is as good as Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. Okay, but off the mark: Judevine may be better thought of as the book James Agee was ultimately too pious and too distanced from his subjects to write.
Judevine is a great book.

Ray Olson

David Budbill’s . . . poetry is as accessible as a parking lot and as plain as a pair of Levis. [These poems are] a labor of love not in the usual sense that the artist can be seen to love the labor he performs but because he can be seen to love the place and the people he’s writing about.

Thomas Disch

Budbill is a poet, I might say a musician, after my own heart. Without ever resorting to established forms or the least contrivance, he uses tones, textures, and melodic, harmonic, and echoic elements as a musician would, and his work is a delight to read, invariably. What strikes me most about David Budbill is the intensity of his commitment, not simply to poetry, but to the human need from which poetry – if it is real poetry – has always risen. Judevine is an extremely various, wide-ranging collection of stories and memoirs – in effect a novel – about a small town in Vermont and its inhabitants and history. With Checkhovian insight, Budbill uncovers, through the American lives of the people of Judevine, the whole extent of his concern – which is ours, though we may not always know it – for the world, for peace, for love and justice, for understanding. To do so much he must be very resourceful – lyrical, exalted, funny, sometimes mean, always colorful – and he is.”

Hayden Carruth


“Unlike ninety-eight percent of living American poets, David Budbill has a subject. His Judevine is full of loving interest in other people and in what I still insist on calling the real world. Budbill both informs and moves and he is, in short, a delight and a comfort.”

Wendell Berry

Budbill writes with tremendous authority, high and low humor (some of this is very very funny), and an unembarrassed passion for the community and the individuals in it.
Here is everything we are so often told is missing from contemporary poetry: it is rooted in the soil of the community, not the ego of the poet; it is magnanimous in scale and in spirit; it makes a grand music of many voices–crying out to be read aloud; it is academic only as Chaucer is academic.
Budbill lives by Camus’ injunction in his Nobel prize speech: “It’s a part of a writer’s duty to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

The Beloit Poetry Journal


“David Budbill gets his instinct to tell a tale from Chaucer; his sense of poetry, of worship, from the Second Shepherd’s Play. There is no irony in his treatment of these rural Vermont folk. No condescension either. They are their own persons.

Grace Paley


“…one of the most original and accessible poets at work today.

Howard Frank Mosher

“Budbill’s is an important voice, part of the nascent movement to bring out views of New England’s native poor from the long-vanished world of Ethan Frome to the like to the Beans of Egypt, Maine. Essential.”

Ron Schmieder
Library Journal