Incredible Good Fortune: New Poems


These warm, funny, and eloquent poems, spanning the years 2000 to 2005, by the celebrated author of Always Coming Home and The Language of the Night, showcase Le Guin’s many facets as a writer.
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Incredible Good Fortune: New Poems

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These warm, funny, and eloquent poems, spanning the years 2000 to 2005, by the celebrated author of Always Coming Home and The Language of the Night, showcase Le Guin’s many facets as a writer.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Le Guin's down-to-earth, intensely personal voice is unmistakable."—Los Angeles Times

“Short and sweet, these verses are simple and honest.”—Library Journal

 “This sixth gathering of poems comprises compact and often songlike work, adroit in both Western and non-Western modes.”—Publishers Weekly

“These poems are musical; in turns fierce, playful, sunlit, dark; always in her own clear voice. She writes powerfully of love, aging, and illness, and her strong social vision never wavers.”—Naomi Replansky

“Here is a book to lift the spirits of all ages of readers—give it to your favorite teenager as well as your wisest elder. It is rich, resonant, and simply wonderful.”—Naomi Shihab Nye

Publishers Weekly
One of the world's most honored authors of science fiction (The Left Hand of Darkness, etc.) and young adult fantasy (the Earthsea trilogy), Le Guin has also maintained a serious, if less often recognized, career as a poet. This sixth gathering of poems comprises compact and often songlike work, adroit in both Western (rhyming quatrains; couplets) and non-Western (meditation and praise song) modes. Much of Le Guin's work takes cues from landscape, especially that of the Pacific Northwest, where she lives; a set of stanzaic poems about a Caribbean cruise brings out both attractive descriptions and political ironies. Le Guin also considers advancing age: a few poems address her 70th birthday, and many others consider the regrets and resolution. Le Guin's young adult fiction draws on folktale and myth, and her poetry takes advantage of similar sources, from the Philomela story to Red Riding Hood; her most admired science fiction has political overtones, and she ventures into politics here with epigrams and strong stanzas against the Iraq war. (Mar. 14) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Some prose writers use poetry as a release, a shorthand medium for "journaling" or diary-keeping, and this is the sort of poem one finds in this long collection, the sixth book of poetry by well-known sf and fantasy writer Le Guin. Fans of her novels and stories will find the real person here: among friends and family, on a cruise, touring through the California desert, attending a peace march. Short and sweet, these verses-many in rhymed tetrameter or trimeter-are simple and honest, if not particularly compelling. But occasionally they find a true and unique fit: "I love my native language/ the lovely viola/ the great advantage." Written over a period of five years, they move from a collection of fairy tales and nursery rhymes to realistic lyrics detailing the interior landscape of growing older. This collection will appeal to readers who seek accessible, autobiographical poetry by a writer whose work they admire.-E.M. Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine LLP Law Lib., New York Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590304228
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/13/2007
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 1,408,899
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.75 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Ursula K.  Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin is the winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Gandalf, Kafka, and National Book Awards. She is the author of many short stories and more than fifteen novels, including The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. She is also an honored author of children's books, poetry, and criticism.


Speculative fiction, magic realism, "slipstream" fiction -- all these terms could apply to the works of Ursula K. Le Guin. Unfortunately, none was in common use when she started writing in the early 1960s. As a young writer, Le Guin weathered seven years of rejections from editors who praised her novels' elegant prose but were puzzled by their content. At a time when the only literary fiction was realistic fiction, as Le Guin later told an interviewer for The Register-Guard in Portland, Oregon, "There just wasn't a pigeonhole for what I write."

At long last, two of her stories were accepted for publication, one at a literary journal and one at a science-fiction magazine. The literary journal paid her in copies of the journal; the science-fiction magazine paid $30. She told The Register-Guard, "I thought: 'Oooohhh! They'll call what I write science fiction, will they? And they'll pay me for it? Well, here we go!' "

Le Guin continued to write and publish stories, but her breakthrough success came with the publication of The Left Hand of Darkness in 1969. The novel, which tells of a human ambassador's encounters with the gender-changing inhabitants of a distant planet, was unusual for science fiction in that it owed more to anthropology and sociology than to the hard sciences of physics or biology. The book was lauded for its intellectual and psychological depth, as well as for its fascinating premise. "What got to me was the quality of the story-telling," wrote Frank Herbert, the author of Dune. "She's taken the mythology, psychology -- the entire creative surround -- and woven it into a jewel of a story."

Since then, Le Guin has published many novels, several volumes of short stories, and numerous poems, essays, translations, and children's books. She's won an arm's-length list of awards, including both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, and a National Book Award for The Farthest Shore. Over the years, she has created and sustained two fictional universes, populating each with dozens of characters and stories. The first universe, Ekumen, more or less fits into the science-fiction mode, with its aliens and interplanetary travel; the second, Earthsea, is a fantasy world, complete with wizards and dragons. As Margaret Atwood wrote in The New York Review of Books, "Either one would have been sufficient to establish Le Guin's reputation as a mistress of its genre; both together make one suspect that the writer has the benefit of arcane drugs or creative double-jointedness or ambidexterity."

More impressive still is the way Le Guin's books have garnered such tremendous crossover appeal. Unlike many writers of science fiction, she is regularly reviewed in mainstream publications, where her work has been praised by the likes of John Updike and Harold Bloom. But then, Le Guin has never fit comfortably into a single genre. As she said in a Science Fiction Weekly interview, "I know that I'm always called 'the sci-fi writer.' Everybody wants to stick me into that one box, while I really live in several boxes. It's probably hurt the sales of my realistic books like Searoad, because it tended to get stuck into science fiction, where browsing readers that didn't read science fiction would never see it."

Le Guin has also published a translation of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, a book that has influenced her life and writing since she was a teenager; she has translated fiction by Angelica Gorodischer and a volume of poems by Gabriela Mistral; and, perhaps most gratifyingly for her fans, she has returned to the imaginary realm of Earthsea. Tehanu, which appeared in 1990, was subtitled "The Last Book of Earthsea," but Le Guin found she had more to tell, and she continued with Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind. "I thought after 'Tehanu' the story was finished, but I was wrong," she told Salon interviewer Faith L. Justice. "I've learned never to say 'never.' "

Good To Know

The "K" in Ursula K. Le Guin stands for Le Guin's maiden name, Kroeber. Her father was the anthropologist Alfred Kroeber; her mother, the writer Theodora Kroeber, is best known for the biography Ishi in Two Worlds.

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    1. Hometown:
      Portland, Oregon
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 21, 1929
    2. Place of Birth:
      Berkeley, California
    1. Education:
      B.A., Radcliffe College; M.A., Columbia University, 1952
    2. Website:

Table of Contents

The old lady 3
The housewife 4
The girl at the gate of Fairyland 5
The Shiksa 6
The drowned girl 7
The forsaken shepherdess 8
The mute 9
The Lorelei to Heinrich Heine 10
The woman in the attic 11
Anonyma 12
The little girl 13
The woman in the basement 14
Incredible good fortune 17
San Jose palms 18
November birds 19
Winter days 21
Quatrains 22
An afternoon in England in winter 25
Waking in April 26
The non-Cartesian in June 27
Nine lines, August 9 28
Mount Rainier from Amtrak 29
Another weather : Mount St. Helens 30
In Harney County 31
The Cactus Wren 38
I Les Iles Sous le Vent 41
II Aruba 42
III The Coup de Grace 43
IV Deck one infirmary blues 44
V Sorceries of San Blas 45
VI Antigua : the silence of the mountain 47
VII 24 knots at night 48
VIII Pelicans 49
IX Passengers 50
X Nobody 51
XI Baja 52
XII The news 53
XIII 124[degrees]30' west 54
XIV Mementoes 55
Buz 59
Love songs in late May 60
Passing the clinic 64
At the feast in the great hall 65
The finding 66
The lost explorer 67
Magellanica 68
Peace vigil, March, 2003 69
Talk shows 70
For Karen 71
Here, there, at the Marsh 72
American wars 73
3/3/03 74
An American etymology 75
April in San Jose 76
Invocation 79
English 80
Dance song 81
Two poems for Judith 82
A lament for my poultry 85
Seventy 86
Taking courage 87
A request 88
Ille 89
For Naomi 90
Learning Latin in Old Age 91
Futurology 92
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