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Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems Hardcover – September 18, 2012


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About the Author

Ursula K. Le Guin was born in Berkeley, California, in 1929. Over the course of her career she has published more than sixty books of fiction, fantasy, science fiction, children’s literature, poetry, drama, criticism, and translation, and is the multiple winner of the highest awards in several fields. Among her honors are a National Book Award, a PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction, five Hugo and five Nebula Awards, twenty-one Locus Awards, the Kafka Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

From Wild Angels (1960–1975)

Offering
I made a poem going
to sleep last night, woke
in sunlight, it was clean forgotten.
If it was any good, gods
of the great darkness
where sleep goes and farther
death goes, you not named,
then as true offering
accept it.


The Maenads
Somewhere I read
that when they finally staggered off the mountain
into some strange town, past drunk,
hoarse, half naked, blear-eyed,
blood dried under broken nails
and across young thighs,
but still jeering and joking, still trying
to dance, lurching and yelling, but falling
dead asleep by the market stalls,
sprawled helpless, flat out, then
middle-aged women,
respectable housewives,
would come and stand nightlong in the agora
silent
together
as ewes and cows in the night fields,
guarding, watching them
as their mothers
watched over them.
And no man
dared
that fierce decorum.


From A Book of Songs

The Old Lady
I have dreed my dree, I have wooed my wyrd,
and now I shall grow a five-foot beard
and braid it into tiny braids
and wander where the webfoot wades
among the water’s shining blades.
I will fear nothing I have feared.
I’m the queen of spades, the jack of trades,
braiding my knives into my beard.
Why should I know what I have known?
Once was enough to make it my own.
The things I got I will forget.
I’ll knot my beard into a net
and cast the net and catch a fish
who will ungrant my every wish
and leave me nothing but a stone
on the riverbed alone,
leave me nothing but a rock
where the feet of herons walk.

Creation of the Horse
The salt green uncle-god, the Earthquaker,
thought of a creature with muscles like sea-swells
to leap across the beaches like a breaker
and beat on the earth like the waves with its feet.
So he struck a startled island with his trident
and then himself stood back in surprise
at the fiery uprearing, the white mane flying,
the foam-spattered flanks and the earth-dark eyes.

The Arts of Old Age
written in the airport
I learn the arts of old age day by day:
the expertise of being lame; the sense
of unimpatient impotence;
the irony of all accomplishments;
the silent, furtive welcome of delay.

The Whirlwind
Will fear of the foreboding dream
avert or invite the prophecy?
How to foretell the paths of dust
caught in this visionary whirl,
this standing wind, this spiral stream?
A breath breathed out will set me free.
I’ll choose to do the thing I must.
The world dreamed me, I dream the world.

January Night Prayer
Bellchimes jangle, freakish wind
whistles icy out of desert lands
over the mountains. Janus, Lord
of winter and beginnings, riven
and shaken, with two faces,
watcher at the gates of winds and cities,
god of the wakeful:
keep me from coldhanded envy
and petty anger. Open
my soul to the vast
dark places. Say to me, say again,
nothing is taken, only given.

NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547858205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547858203
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #972,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kevin L. Nenstiel TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Poets approaching their winter years have two choices. Like Walt Whitman, they can cast their eye to how scholars remember them after they die. Try reading later editions of Leaves of Grass, and note how opaque his work has become compared to earlier editions. Or they can keep the living audience in view, trusting that knowing readers will keep good writing alive. Ursula LeGuin has done the latter, and I love her for it.

Best known for her award-winning science fiction and fantasy, LeGuin has also kept many irons in the fire: she's also an esteemed translator, critic, and essayist. Her poetry also proves a remarkable reward, offering glimpses into one of our time's greatest minds. And considering the range of time covered in this collection, from 1960 to 2012, we get to see her evolution over the course of a productive, unconventional career.

The first half of this collection selects highlights from LeGuin's prior collections. The table of contents cites thirteen collections, a remarkable number number for someone not known as a poet. Many respected poets have not been so prolific, perhaps because she writes full-time, and does not teach. Perhaps more important, because she writes for a paying audience and not for the tenure committee, her poetry is remarkably lucid:

So still so sunny and so Sunday
is this early day,
what's done needs to be quiet:
a white butterfly
by the red fuses of the fuchsias.

("Morning Service")

Some of LeGuin's earliest poetry utilizes the same fantastic imagery that informs her famed speculative fiction. Minstrels and maenads, nymphs and sun gods. But she does not linger on these tropes, and largely writes them out remarkably early. LeGuin writes poetry separately from her fiction.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Most of us know Ursala Le Guin from her science fiction, such as the classic The Left Hand of Darkness. She's always had a deft twist of worldview and an admirable ability to communicate it, but it's her command of language, I think that explains why she's usually considered among the "literary" SF writers. Even people who like "serious fiction" (whatever that is) seem to like Le Guin, though my own history with her books has been spotty.

Still, I admire her greatly for many things, not the least of which is a writing style full of bring-me-up-short imagery. That's why I was happy to choose her book of collected poems from my Amazon Vine selection, with 30 of her older poems and 90 new ones. I hadn't read any of her poetry before, so it was all new to me. I don't read poetry a LOT, anymore, but my first published work was a poem (when I was all of 13 years old) and I took poetry-writing in college with Frank Bidart as my teacher, so I'm not a poetry heathen.

And... I like Le Guin's poetry. By the nature of any collection (from short stories to poetry) some work better than others, and poetry is so much a matter of "what speaks to me right this second" that it's fairly impossible to proclaim "goodness" for anyone else. Some poems made me shrug and turn the page, where others stopped me in my tracks. Several of the poems are on topics that become more meaningful as I get older: about aging, and living alone, and appreciating nature. Some are long; others, like "Sleeping with Cats," only a few lines long.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tracy Marks VINE VOICE on August 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The first half of FINDING MY ELEGY should be read outside in a field of daisies and sunflowers, while sparrows chirp overhead, and the late afternoon sun radiates its golden light across the dancing pages.

Many of these poems are magical - often childlike and simplistic, occasionally referring to a private world which you, the reader, may not always be able to enter. What matters here, however, is being able to experience the state of wondrous innocence and illumination that Le Guin has also been able to invoke in many of her fantasy novels.

For forty years, I've regarded Ursula Le Guin's A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA as my favorite novel, its message of owning one's shadow having deeply impacted my life ever since. But I had never read her poetry, and was delighted to be able to review her latest book of poems. I was not disappointed, although I found this collection to be inconsistent - inferior poems scattered like dime store glitter among polished jewels.

Also diverse is her subject matter - invocations and prayers, the experience of children, and of fantasy characters and mythical figures. Poems celebrating nature in all of its seasons, California and Oregon, pets and wild animals. Reflections on the artifice of Las Vegas and the enslavement of owning. Poems about silence, language, writers, singers, historical persons. Marriage poems, and poems about daughters and granddaughters. Powerfully moving poems on the evils of war. A multiplicity of poems about aging and approaching death.

FINDING MY ELEGY is indeed a cornucopia of styles (rhymed and unrhymed) and subjects, expressing a full range of voices, from the childlike, magical and celebratory to the maternal, grief-stricken and poignantly reflective.
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