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Songs of Unreason Hardcover – November 8, 2011

4.9 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jim Harrison: Jim Harrison, one of America’s most versatile and celebrated writers, is the author of over thirty books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction—including Legends of the Fall, the acclaimed trilogy of novellas, and The Shape of the Journey: New and Collected Poems. His books have been translated into two dozen languages, and in 2007 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. With a fondness for open space and anonymous thickets, he divides his time between Montana and southern Arizona.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press; First Printing edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556593899
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556593895
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,074,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Over his last three or four poetry books, Jim Harrison hit a genius stride, and I've been waiting for this new book since his gnarled face was on the cover of Narrative magazine when they published "Suite of Unreason." Reading that long poem was an amazing experience--like watching a wildfire from a hovering helicopter. And now, in book form, it is an even wilder wildfire. The suite is printed one-stanza-per-page on the left-hand pages, running throughout the entire book. The stanzas stand on their own as individual short poems, then flow together beautifully when read as an interlocking piece. On the right-hand pages are the 60-plus poems in the rest of the book (one of which appeared in the journal published by the Yale Divinity School). What happens, page after astonishing page, is exactly what poetry books are supposed to do: spark, swirl, and roar with energy and insights and music. The book is at least three books packaged as one: the long suite on its own; stanzas of "Suite of Unreason" in interplay with the "normal" poems; and the book read as the table of contents suggests. I've experienced the book in multiple ways, and plan to keep reading it until it falls apart in my hands. Then I'll buy a new one, because Songs of Unreason is going with me until the end.
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Format: Hardcover
I've been rereading Jim Harrison's Songs of Unreason over the last week or so. At first, I thought I might try to review it this time around, but a second go through has only reminded me why I didn't attempt to "review" it the first time.

To put it simply: the whole things astounds me too much. This is a book that comes at you with the all the force of a powerful writer with something to say, something that has grown out of many years of living and thinking and feeling. I tried to read it like a poet and learn something about what the man is doing. But the magnetism of the poems kept pulling me into their centers where I'd forget I was supposed to be doing anything except inhaling. The fact that they were poems at all disappeared. I felt like I was listening with a tin can at the forehead of a grizzled old wise man and I had to be very quiet so I wouldn't miss anything.

God, I love these poems. It was hard to choose exactly what lines to put here to show you why, but I settled on the final lines from "Nightfears," since that poem goes into several of Harrison's big themes--human fears, the hard truth of human failings, our relationship to nature, just to name a few. The poem begins with a list of what might frighten us in the dark and then toward the middle imagines that "The night/has decided to stick around for a week."

And here is how that strange disruption of the usual day/night cycle turns out:
. . .
When the red sun decides to rise again we humans
of earth swim through the acrid milk of our brains
toward a rising light, a new song on our lips,
but all creatures retreat from us, their murderers.
In real dawn's early light my poached egg is only an egg.

I give you these lines without commentary. They don't need any, or if they do, not from me. All I can do is reach up and close my jaw and remind myself to breathe. Which I had to do about fifty times while reading this collection.
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Format: Hardcover
"Songs of Unreason" is a tremendously beautiful and profound book, filled with insights into both the heart of man and the heart of the world. An amazing talisman created by American's greatest writer. Like a fine wine, Jim Harrison gets better and better with age. Thank you Jim...!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like Letters to Yesenin, and Jim Harrison's more recent poetry, Songs of Unreason alternately soothes, stirs and tells the truth. With the cover art by Russell Chatham adding to the overall presentation, this beautiful book reaffirms the art of the book, the durability and vividness of poetry and ultimately provides real hope.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Harrison stays true to form, putting both the dark and light of human nature in prose. As always, his poems revisit you throughout the day - I have found myself stopping what I am doing because a line has come back to haunt me. If you are a Jim Harrison fan, you won't be disappointed.
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Format: Paperback
Since the Romantic period, poets have loved to speak of themselves as agents of the intuitive, the irrational, of divine madness--probably in hopes of disassociating themselves from the sad mansion of academic poetry that killed so many trees in the twentieth century. This kind of language gets all over Jim Harrison--he describes his thinking as "atavistic, primitive, totemistic"--but that doesn't mean it's wrong. Harrison has obviously found his own way through the poetics of modernism, but has retained an elemental, Antaean quality--an awareness of ground and plant and insect and air--that gives weight and weather to his imaginative and symbolic flights, a mordant gravity. Harrison's 2011 collection alternates independent pieces with a "Suite of Unreason" which one might call surreal but for its stubborn human appeal. It's a great book.

Glenn Shea, from Glenn's Book Notes, at www.bookbarnniantic.com
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Thoughts are difficult to process into "Minds-Eye" configurations. Mr Harrison does it beautifully. When he sets his pencil to paper a vision of "Life" is created then nurtured; at the mature stage there is no doubt about the experience and the memory of having lived it. I have read everything he has written, loved all of his characters and the situations he puts them in. He is a true master!
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