After the Point of No Return


"Wagoner's words are a living link to the world, enacting it so vitally that they feel like natural facts."—The Seattle Times

In his twenty-fourth book of poetry, David Wagoner reflects on youth, love, regret, and expectation versus reality. Here a master writes at top form, back-dropped by life's curious moments and imagining Jesus as an untidy roommate or considering our final destination in "Beginner's ...

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After the Point of No Return

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"Wagoner's words are a living link to the world, enacting it so vitally that they feel like natural facts."—The Seattle Times

In his twenty-fourth book of poetry, David Wagoner reflects on youth, love, regret, and expectation versus reality. Here a master writes at top form, back-dropped by life's curious moments and imagining Jesus as an untidy roommate or considering our final destination in "Beginner's Guide to Death."

"After the Point of No Return"

After that moment when you've lost all reason for going back where you started, when going ahead is no longer a Yes or No, but a matter of fact,
you'll need to weigh, on the one hand, what will seem,
on the other, almost nothing against something

slightly more than nothing and must choose again and again, at points of fewer and fewer chances to guess, when and which way to turn.

That's when you might stop thinking about stars and storm clouds, the direction of wind,
the difference between rain and snow, the time of day or the lay of the land, about which trees mean water, which birds know what you need to know before it's too late, or what's right here under your feet, no longer able to tell you

where it was you thought you had to go.

David Wagoner is the author of two dozen books of poetry and ten novels. A longtime teacher at University of Washington, he was the editor at Poetry Northwest. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his latest collection, Wagoner riffs on his titles—“My Father’s Body,” “Driving,” “Playground,” “What the Marine Biologist Told Me”—delving deep into particular subjects. In “Orpheus Practicing,” we are treated to just that: the oft-poeticized musician “after he’d strung the turtle shell with catgut... deciding which of the strings to pluck.” Wagoner occasionally sounds an off note, as when describing a “homeless drinking man,” whom Wagoner advises to make “a house/ out of the blizzard itself.” The poems that prevail are the ones in which Wagoner throws a kink into the expectation that forms when one reads his titles. “On the Road” tracks a caravan of overindulgent wisdom-seekers whose ambitions are as nervy as the poetry with which Wagoner renders them: “we’d filled the moat as high as the first drains of the palace/ that should have had a prince and a princess and a king and a queen/ waiting for us inside it, showing us how to be wise, but didn’t.” It’s here that Wagoner pushes past the subject of his titles into a place of real urgency. (Mar.)
Library Journal
The author of more than two dozen books of poetry, along with nearly a dozen novels, two-time National Book Award nominee Wagoner (In Broken Country) again demonstrates that he speaks best in verse. His latest volume examines life's ironies, idiosyncrasies, and imitable possibilities: "Is everything we think/ we know as certain truth/ a metaphor we make/ between our capable hands/ and our heads?" Ranging from meditation on childhood to contemplation of life's end, a Wagoner poem finds its strongest metaphors in the natural world but is not limited to it; some poems look for immortality through memory. The poems exhibit lovely imagery, clear language, and forms organic to content while also engaging in some wry humor—imagine Jesus as a messy roommate or Thoreau herding a loose cow. In the end, Wagoner strives to define what it means to be human by asking the larger questions. VERDICT A highly recommended book by an important poet.—Karla Huston, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, Madison
The Washington Post
…one of his best. The poems are remarkably consistent and polished…His lines and stanzas are crisp and sure, and the voice is always articulate and thoughtful…Wagoner knows how to describe a scene with such precision that readers feel both its immediacy and its larger import.
—Elizabeth Lund
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556593826
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 4/10/2012
  • Pages: 120
  • Sales rank: 969,734
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x -11.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Wagoner: David Wagoner, often referred to as the leading poet of the Pacific Northwest, was born in Ohio and raised in Indiana. Before moving to Washington in 1954, Wagoner attended Pennsylvania State University where he was a member of the Naval ROTC and received an M.A. in English from Indiana University. Wagoner was selected to serve as chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1978, replacing Robert Lowell, and he served as the editor of Poetry Northwest until its last issue in 2002. Known for his dedication to teaching, he was named a professor emeritus at the University of Washington. Wagoner has been compared stylistically to his longtime teacher and friend, Theodore Roethke.

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