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Though internationally known and honored for her imaginative fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin started out as a poet, and since 1959 has never ceased to publish poems. Finding My Elegy distills her life's work, offering a selection of the best from her six earlier volumes of poetry and introducing a powerful group of poems, at once earthy and transcendent, written in the first decade of the ...
Though internationally known and honored for her imaginative fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin started out as a poet, and since 1959 has never ceased to publish poems. Finding My Elegy distills her life's work, offering a selection of the best from her six earlier volumes of poetry and introducing a powerful group of poems, at once earthy and transcendent, written in the first decade of the twenty-first century.
The fruit of over a half century of writing, the seventy selected and seventy-seven new poems consider war and creativity, motherhood and the natural world, and glint with humor and vivid beauty. These moving works of art are a reckoning with a whole life.
From Wild Angels (1960–1975)
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.
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,
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.
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.
Wild Fortune: Selected Poems, 1960–2005
From Wild Angels (1960–1975) 15
A Lament for Rheged 16
Ars Lunga 21
Tao Song 23
From Hard Words (1975–1980) 24
The Mind Is Still 25
The Marrow 26
The Writer to the Dancer 27
From The Dancing at Tillai 28
At Three Rivers, April ’80 29
Slick Rock Creek, September 30
Winter Downs 31
The Child on the Shore 34
From Wild Oats and Fireweed (1980–1987) 36
Wild Oats and Fireweed 36
From In the Red Zone: Mount St. Helens, October 1981 39
To Walk In Here 39
While the Old Men Make Ready to Kill 41
For the New House 43
The Maenads 44
A Meditation on a Marriage 47
From Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences (1987) 49
The Crown of Laurel 49
From Going Out with Peacocks (1988–1994) 53
The Pacific Slope 53
Riding the “Coast Starlight” 54
Sleeping with Cats 55
Waking: Two Poems 56
The Vigil for Ben Linder 57
The Queen of Spain, Grown Old and Mad, Writes to the Daughter She Imagines She Had by Christopher Columbus 60
Song for a Daughter 62
The Hard Dancing 64
From No Boats (chapbook, 1991) 65
From “McKenzie Voices” 65
At Cannon Beach 66
From Blue Moon Over Thurman Street (1993) 67
The Aching Air 67
From Sixty Odd (1994–1999) 70
Read at the Award Dinner, May 1996 70
Hexagram 45 71
When there aren’t any 72
For Gabriela Mistral 75
Hexagram 49 77
“The scarcity of rhinos” on the television 79
Field Burning Debated, Salmon Fate Discussed 81
Morning Service 82
Late Dusk 83
A Blue Moon: June 30 84
Repulse Monkey 85
“Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” 86
From Incredible Good Fortune (2000–2006) 87
Incredible Good Fortune 87
April in San Jose 88
Mount Rainier from Amtrak 90
The Cactus Wren 91
From A Book of Songs 92
The Old Lady 92
The Forsaken Shepherdess 93
From Notes from a Cruise 94
Antigua: The Silence of the Mountain 94
Talk Shows 96
Here, There, at the Marsh 97
American Wars 98
The Lost Explorer 99
Dance Song 102
Taking Courage 104
A Request 105
For Naomi 106
Learning Latin in Old Age 107
Life Sciences: New Poems, 2006–2011
I. Socioesthetics 111
Pretty Things 112
In England in the Fifties 113
The City of the Plain 114
Watching the Fractal Set 115
The Mistake 116
The Next War 117
The Crest 118
The Curse of the Prophetess 122
Every Land 124
The Elders at the Falls 125
An Old Yurok Basket 127
Almost and Always 128
Lieder Singer 129
After the Fire 131
Lorca’s Duende 132
Exegi monumentum aere perennius 135
She Remembers the Famous Poets 136
II. Botany and Zoology 137
Two Crow Poems 137
Learning the Name 138
The Greater Forest 139
Red Alders in March 140
Pinus Sabiniana 141
Creation of the Horse 143
The Clydesdale Mare 144
I think of them 145
At the Clackamas County Fair 150
III. Meteorology and Geography 152
Mendenhall Glacier 152
A Measure of Desolation 153
Coast Range Highway, November 154
Seasonal Quatrains 156
Morning in Joseph, Oregon 157
Hour of the Changes 158
Summer Morning on the Volcano 159
For My Traveling Companion 160
Up the Columbia 161
Navna: The River-running, by Intrumo of Sinshan 162
At Kishamish 163
IV. Developmental Ontology 168
At the Center 168
Early Memory: Jocken 169
The Merchant of Words 170
The House Is Soft 174
Seven Lines to Elisabeth 175
Final Destination 176
Ghazal at the Oasis of Mara 177
Low Barometer 180
My Birthday Present 181
The Arts of Old Age 182
Sometimes it seems 183
The Body of the World 184
When They Came 185
Body of Water 187
V. Philosophy and Theology 190
Finding My Elegy 190
The Whirlwind 193
Some Mornings 195
In the Borderlands 196
Jewel and Gravel 197
Tout rêve . . . 200
Morning Star 201
A God I Know 203
January Night Prayer 204
The Conference 205