The Contrarian Voice

and other poems

Ernest Hebert

66 pp., 6.5 x 8.5, Paperback



Sep. 2017




In this new collection of poetry, award-winning author Ernest Hebert writes of the trials, tribulations, and worsening plight of the working man, memorializing the “dirty-face people” who “put down the asphalt for the highways, stoked the foundry fires, built the rockets, and packed the computer chips. . . .”


“A superb fiction writer, one of the very best of his generation, Ernie Hebert has written a book of poems that is lively, irreverent, and full of what Frost called “vocal imagination.” The voice in these poems is impatient with pieties of all kinds, but always intelligent in its humor, its heartbroken candor, and its skeptical embrace of approaching age.”


–– Tom Sleigh, author of Station Zed and ArmyCats


“I first met Ernest Hebert when we were on a panel together, screening applications for writers’ grants. I’ll never forget it:  Right off I thought, This guy is the real deal: smart as a whip but devoid of airs or lit-crit cant. Of course his fiction’s characters are similarly rough-hewn and flinty, but they’re survivors too. In this extraordinary collection, many of them speak by way of poems that are unlike any others I know. One of those rough-hewn characters is the author himself, a soul as capable of tenderness (“My Mother’s Donuts,” say, is simply heartbreaking to read) as of biting realism (see, among many, “ The Dogs of Tunapuna, Trinidad”). There are moments in The Contrarian Voice when Ernie mocks himself, as if it were pretentious to call himself a poet; but for my money, he has more right to that label than many an eminent contemporary, and his debut collection is a tour de force.”


–– Sydney Lea, Vermont Poet Laureate (2011-2015)


“Like his novels, Ernest Hebert’s poems are “truthful to the real world,” yet steeped in his own deep, often dark imagination. These are poems about our relationships — with loved ones, jobs, friends, enemies, and, as Hebert has said of his fiction, “that steamy, dreamy on-going nut-case story in our heads.”


For Hebert, the small town is a metaphor for something greater than the sum of its parts: family, job, church, school, but it is also the totality of those things. Through this metaphor he shows us what is good and bad, ugly and beautiful about our human psyche.


Some of the poems are written in the voices of characters from Hebert’s novel series The Darby Chronicles and, like those novels, they are as steeped in New England granite as the characters from which they spring. What a joy to have these hardscrabble, flinty, poems that extend the voices of Darby, and which ultimately are a gift outright from a very talented writer.”


–– Scott Edward Anderson, author of Fallow Field: Poems


“All writing is important, even the stuff you never show anyone, because every line helps you understand yourself a tad better,” Hebert says in “A Tad,” and readers, too, will understand themselves better after reading his new book of poems. The writing is by turns whimsical and poignant, humorous and deeply-felt. Delivered in plainspoken free verse, the poems resonate with the authenticity of a life fully lived and unflinchingly examined, told in a voice honed by decades of writing and telling stories about love, family, country, nature, and the human spirit; that is, the things that matter most.


—Rebecca Foust, Marin County Poet Laureate and author of Paradise Drive.


ERNEST HEBERT is the author of thirteen books, including the critically acclaimed Darby Chronicles, seven novels of “life, death, and laughs in a small fictional town in New Hampshire (1979-2014).” Born in Keene, New Hampshire. Hebert is now professor of English (creative writing) emeritus at Dartmouth College, the first faculty member to be tenured as a fiction writer there. He and his wife Medora live in Westmoreland, New Hampshire.