In Search of Small Gods

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Overview

“Jim Harrison has probed the breadth of human appetites—for food and drink, for art, for sex, for violence and, most significantly, for the great twin engines of love and death. Perhaps no American writer better appreciates those myriad drives; since the publication of his first collection of poetry . . . Harrison has become their poet laureate.”—Salon.com

In Jim Harrison’s new book of poems, birds and humans converse, biographies are fluid, and unknown gods flutter just out of sight. In terrains real and ...

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Overview

“Jim Harrison has probed the breadth of human appetites—for food and drink, for art, for sex, for violence and, most significantly, for the great twin engines of love and death. Perhaps no American writer better appreciates those myriad drives; since the publication of his first collection of poetry . . . Harrison has become their poet laureate.”—Salon.com

In Jim Harrison’s new book of poems, birds and humans converse, biographies are fluid, and unknown gods flutter just out of sight. In terrains real and imagined—from remote canyons and anonymous thickets in the American West to secret basements in World War II Europe—Harrison calls his readers to live fully in a world where “Death steals everything except our stories.” In Search of Small Gods is an urgent and imaginative book—one filled with “the spore of the gods.”

Maybe the problem is that I got involved with the wrong crowd of gods when I was seven. At first they weren’t harmful and only showed themselves as fish, birds, especially herons and loons, turtles, a bobcat and a small bear, but not deer and rabbits who only offered themselves as food. And maybe I spent too much time inside the water of lakes and rivers. Underwater seemed like the safest church I could go to . . .

Jim Harrison is the author of thirty books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, including Legends of the Fall and Shape of the Journey. A long-time resident of Michigan, he now lives in Montana and Arizona.

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Editorial Reviews

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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Library Journal

Noted novelist Harrison (The English Major), also a fine poet, writes like a man reconciling the world at large with the natural world he knows well, one that still fascinates and inspires him. Many of his small gods are dogs, and many of them are fish or birds, that is, chickadees and hawks, willow flycatchers and hummingbirds: "Most birds own the ancient/ clock of north and south, a clock that never had hands, the god-time/ with which the universe began." He looks at them all with awe and ironic amusement. A group of prose poems centers this volume. Whether he imagines an Estonian World War II veteran who is fascinated by light or Vallejo in Paris, collecting empty wine bottles for small change, Harrison is heavily invested in narrative elements that range from the real to the surreal. One wondrous poem, "On Horseback in China," spins a tale filled with intriguing and magical turns. What joins these poems into a cohesive whole is the search for identity, still an important ritual for a man of any age: "I had become the moving water I already am." Highly recommended.
—Karla Huston

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556593192
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 104
  • Sales rank: 399,896
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 11.06 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Jim Harrison is the author of thirty books, including Legends of the Fall, Dalva, and Shape of the Journey. His work has been translated into two dozen languages and produced as four feature-length films. In 2007, Mr. Harrison was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He divides his time between Montana and southern Arizona.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Another excellent collection

    This is another great collection by Harrison. His style continues to evolve; this is possibly more contemplative.

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