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As a metaphorical journey through the mind of a fisherman over the course of one year, The Spring Branch clearly references Edmund Spenser (an English Renaissance poet whose Shepherd's Calendar like The Spring Branch is cyclical and structured in the form of a calendar).
As Shaffer points out in one telling line, however, this narrator is wholly American "never to be construed or confused as being/related to the anglophile." He is clearly inspired by the American Romantic poet Walt Whitman, and one can see Whitman's influence in Shaffer's emphasis on the senses, nature, and his depiction of the poet as philosopher. . . .
Like the pastoral and romantic poets who precede him, Shaffer is clearly concerned with the natural world. His mistrust of advancement, both technological and economical, is in keeping with his role as philosopher-poet. In order to remind us that "The true gold in the creek is not the soft metal/but the glorious reflection of the sun from the flanks," we need the Tony Shaffers of this world. [Amy Thilges, Warrensburg Free Press 3.l,April 8-21, 2004: 15-16.]
Excerpts from "After 20 years of thought, a book is born" by Chuck Orman.
"His [Shaffer's] book is not one you will read straight through, but will dip into from time to time and come out feeling better."
[Quoting Leroy Van Dyke] "'Tony is multi-talented--a musician, a teacher, a philosopher and he has studied the human animal. He has a sage comment for everyone.'"
(Sedalia Deomocrat, Friday Jan. 21, 2005, p.7)
Cover design by Tony Shaffer