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In Search of Small Gods Hardcover – May 1, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Harrison (Legends of the Fall) has over decades won a durable following for verse and fiction about the wild places, solitudes and the exhilarations of the American West. This 12th book of verse gives familiar, quotable rural pleasures—solitude, ease, forests and big skies—along with a new focus on the poet's advancing years. I keep waiting without knowing/ what I'm waiting for, Harrison says in Age Sixty-Nine; in that waiting, he adds, on local earth my heart/ is at rest as a groundling. In low-pressure free verse, and in the prose poems that make up half the volume, Western American landscapes and beasts soar and roam off the page. (Mexican places and people, unfortunately, do not: they are leaden stereotypes.) People, for Harrison, are beasts as well, marine organisms at the bottom of the ocean/ of air. Paying homage to instinct, loyalty, memory and a companionable ferocity, Harrison finds his best subjects, often enough, in dogs. I know dog language fairly well, he explains, but then dogs hold a little back from us because we don't know their secret names given them by the dog gods. Barking brings the poet closer to the canine kingdom still: I was a dog on a short chain, he complains, and now there's no chain. (Apr.)
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Harrison’s welcoming poems are musings, prayers, vignettes, and fragments of a self-deprecating self-portrait-in-progress. Hoping to avoid the “numbers game of time and money,” the calendared, to-do-list life, he migrates like a bird, walks with his beloved dogs, watches the sun ignite water, and listens to the music of rain. Funny and tender beneath a wry and gruff seen-it-all veneer, Harrison contemplates death, discerns divinity in every stone and leaf, and nobility in ordinary lives, and laughs at our attempts to separate ourselves from the rest of nature. Bears, snakes, cats, a goat in a cemetery, a tree, a spring, all carry memories and messages, if only we could decipher them. In his seventh decade and thirtysomething book, Harrison, writing with more force and lucidity than ever, performs a cosmic soft-shoe beneath the shape-shifting moon, then lifts his head and howls to mark the pain and suffering all around us, from the house down the road to the blasted cities of Iraq. “The gift of the gods / is consciousness,” Harrison declares, and we’d best cherish life’s perpetual metamorphosis. --Donna Seaman
Top customer reviews
If you love this realm of pure nature, and our place in it, you will love his books.