Songs of Unreason

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Overview

#1 on the Poetry Foundation Bestseller List; a Michigan Notable Book; a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist.

"A beautifully mysterious inquiry."—Booklist

"Songs of Unreason, Harrison's latest collection of poetry, is a wonderful defense of the possibilities of living."—The Industrial Worker Book Review

"As in all good poetry, Harrison's lines linger to be ruminated upon a ...

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Songs of Unreason

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Overview

#1 on the Poetry Foundation Bestseller List; a Michigan Notable Book; a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist.

"A beautifully mysterious inquiry."—Booklist

"Songs of Unreason, Harrison's latest collection of poetry, is a wonderful defense of the possibilities of living."—The Industrial Worker Book Review

"As in all good poetry, Harrison's lines linger to be ruminated upon a third or fourth time, with each new reading revealing more substance and raising more questions."—Library Journal

Jim Harrison's compelling and provocative Songs of Unreason explores what it means to inhabit the world in atavistic, primitive, and totemistic ways. "This can be disturbing to the learned," Harrison admits. Using interconnected suites, brief lyrics, and rollicking narratives, Harrison's passions and concerns—creeks, thickets, time's effervescence, familiar love—emerge by turns painful and celebratory, localized and exiled.

From "Suite to Unreason":

Where's my medicine bag? It's either hiddenor doesn't exist. Inside are memories of earth: corn pollen, a bear claw, an umbilical cord. If they exist they help me ride the darkheavens of this life. Such fragile wings.

Jim Harrison is the author of thirty books, including Legends of the Fall and River Swimmer, and has served as the food columnist for Esquire. Harrison divides his time between Montana and southern Arizona.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It wouldn’t be a Harrison collection without the poet, novelist, and food critic’s reverence for rivers, dogs, and women, but that’s not to say Harrison has grown stale or uninteresting in his late poems. Often, as in “A Part of My History,” which finds the poet tracking the ghost of García Lorca through Granada, his poems stun us simply, with the richness of the clarity, detail, and the immediacy of Harrison’s voice. “We visited the site of the murder, drank a little wine,” he writes, “and I stared at the Sierra Nevada/ glistening with snow that was somehow somber as/ the jewelry of the dead.” Pushing his formal boundaries, Harrison closes the collection with the meditative “Suite of Unreason,” a piece that boils down his sharp, epigrammatic lines into a sequence of fist-pumping short poems. But it also wouldn’t be a Harrison poem without the hard melancholy that has come to define his voice. The beauty of Harrison’s suite is that it allows the same voice that tells us “I will sing even with my tongue sliced/ into a fork” to tell us that “the sun forgot to rise/ and for a while no one noticed/ except a few farmers, who shot themselves.” (Oct.)
Library Journal
Guggenheim winner Harrison's 30-plus books include many novels (e.g., The Farmer's Daughter), and his poetry illustrates how vital narrative is to all his work. These poems offer a unique worldview along with a keen knowledge of nature ("of late, I/ see waking as another chance at spring") and a mastery of aphorisms ("The beauty of the rattlesnake is in its threat"). Unlike many contemporary poets, Harrison is philosophical, but his philosophy is nature based and idiosyncratic: "Much that you see/ isn't with your eyes./ Throughout the body are eyes." The last section, "Suite of Unreason," provides a provocative 20-page series of vignettes about life, death, childhood, and travel that closely examine our relationships with other beings. The poems occasionally fall short in their needless repetition and reliance on full sentences when phrases would jump-start tension and create more music ("He thinks/ he's as inevitable as a river but doesn't have time/ to keep time"), but Harrison clearly has a probing and unrelenting eye. VERDICT As in all good poetry, Harrison's lines linger to be ruminated upon a third or fourth time, with each new reading revealing more substance and raising more questions. Most readers of contemporary poetry will enjoy this work.—Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., IN
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556593895
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 11/8/2011
  • Pages: 120
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet 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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