The Shape of the Journey: New & Collected Poems

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Poetry. Harrison doesn't write like anyone else, relying entirely on the toughness of his vision and intensity of feeling to form the poem - or, we should say, relying on the untrammeled renegade genius, that has made him one of the most underappreciated writers in America's a poet talking to you instead of around himself, while doing absolutely brilliant and outrageous things with language. -Publisher's Weekly. The alfalfa was sweet and damp in fields where shepherds / lay once and rams strutted and ...

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The Shape of the Journey: New & Collected Poems

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Poetry. Harrison doesn't write like anyone else, relying entirely on the toughness of his vision and intensity of feeling to form the poem - or, we should say, relying on the untrammeled renegade genius, that has made him one of the most underappreciated writers in America's a poet talking to you instead of around himself, while doing absolutely brilliant and outrageous things with language. -Publisher's Weekly. The alfalfa was sweet and damp in fields where shepherds / lay once and rams strutted and Indians left signs of war. (from Ghazals). Jim Harrison is one of the most authentic vocies of his time. - Denise Levertov.

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Editorial Reviews

Scott Veale
Throughout [Harrison's] wanderings he is great company -- a restless, self-questioning, intelligent writer, humble before nature and...grounded in the flesh and blood and feathers of the planet... -- The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556591495
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2000
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 484
  • Sales rank: 593,808
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.40 (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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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Poem 9
Sketch for a Job-Application Blank 10
David 12
Exercise 13
A Sequence of Women 14
Northern Michigan 16
Returning at Night 18
Fair/Boy Christian Takes a Break 19
Morning 20
Kinship 21
February Suite 22
Traverse City Zoo 26
Reverie 27
Fox Farm 28
Nightmare 29
Credo, After E.P. 30
Dusk 31
Lisle's River 32
Three Night Songs 33
Cardinal 34
"This is cold salt ...," 35
John Severin Walgren, 1874-1962 36
Garden 37
Horse 38
Malediction 39
Word Drunk 40
Young Bull 41
Park at Night 42
Going Back 43
Hitchhiking 44
Sound 45
Dead Deer 46
Li Ho 47
Complaint 48
Return 49
Walking 53
Suite to Fathers 55
Suite to Appleness 60
The Sign 65
War Suite 70
American Girl 75
Lullaby for a Daughter 79
Sequence 80
Cold August 82
Night in Boston 83
February Swans 84
Thin Ice 85
Natural World 86
Moving 87
White 88
After the Anonymous Swedish 89
Dawn Whiskey 90
Legenda 91
A Year's Changes 92
Locations 99
In Interims: Outlyer 111
Trader 119
Hospital 120
Cowgirl 121
Drinking Song 122
Awake 123
Notes on the Ghazals 127
Ghazals: I-LXV 129
Letters: 1-30 197
Postscript 227
A Last Ghazal 228
A Domestic Poem for Portia 229
Missy 1966-1971 231
Four Matrices 232
North American Image Cycle 234
Returning to Earth 247
Not Writing My Name 277
Frog 278
Rooster 279
Epithalamium 281
A Redolence for Nims 282
Followers 283
My First Day As a Painter 284
Waiting 285
Noon 286
Birthday 287
Clear Water 3 288
Dogen's Dream 289
Weeping 290
The Chatham Ghazal 292
Marriage Ghazal 293
March Walk 294
The Woman from Spiritwood 295
Gathering April 296
Walter of Battersea 297
After Reading Takahashi 299
The Theory and Practice of Rivers 303
Kobun 326
Looking Forward to Age 327
Homily 328
Southern Cross 330
Sullivan Poem 331
Horse 334
Cobra 335
Porpoise 336
The Brand New Statue of Liberty 337
The Times Atlas 338
New Love 340
What He Said When I Was Eleven 341
Acting 343
My Friend the Bear 345
Cabin Poem 346
Rich Folks, Poor Folks, and Neither 348
Dancing 352
The Idea of Balance Is to Be Found in Herons and Loons 353
Small Poem 355
Counting Birds 356
Preface 361
After Ikkyu: 1-57 363
The Davenport Lunar Eclipse 381
Coyote No. I 383
Time Suite 384
North 391
Bear 394
Twilight 396
Return to Yesenin 397
Sonoran Radio 399
Hello Walls 411
Scrubbing the Floor the Night a Great Lady Died 412
The Same Goose Moon 413
Geo-Bestiary: 1-34 419
Index of Titles 455
Index of First Lines 457
About the Author 465
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First Chapter

Chapter One


to Linda


Form is the woods: the beast,
a bobcat padding through red sumac,
the pheasant in brake or goldenrod
that he stalks -- both rise to the flush,
the brieflow flutter and catch in air;
and trees, rich green, the moving of boughs
and the separate leaf, yield
to conclusions they do not care about
or watch -- the dead, frayed bird,
the beautiful plumage,
the spoor of feathers
and slight, pink bones.

My left eye is blind and jogs like
a milky sparrow in its socket;
my nose is large and never flares
in anger, the front teeth, bucked,
but not in lechery -- I sucked
my thumb until the age of twelve.
O my youth was happy and I was never lonely
though my friends called me "pig eye"
and the teachers thought me loony.
       (When I bruised, my psyche kept intact:
       I fell from horses, and once a cow but never
       pigs -- a neighbor lost a hand to a sow.)
But I had some fears:
the salesman of eyes,
his case was full of fishy baubles,
against black velvet, jeweled gore,
the great cocked hoof of a Belgian mare,
a nest of milk snakes by the water trough,
electric fences,
my uncle's hounds,
the pump arm of an oil well,
the chop and whir of a combine in the sun.
From my ancestors, the Swedes,
I suppose I inherit the love of rainy woods,
kegs of herring and neat whiskey --
I remember long nights of pinochle,
the bulge of Redman in my grandpa's cheek;
the rug smelled of manure and kerosene.
They laughed loudly and didn't speak for days.
       (But on the other side, from the German Mennonites,
       their rag-smoke prayers and porky daughters
       I got intolerance, and aimless diligence.)
In '51 during a revival I was saved:
I prayed on a cold register for hours
and woke up lame. I was baptized
by immersion in the tank at Williamston --
the rusty water stung my eyes.
I left oft the old things of the flesh
but not for long -- one night beside a pond
she dried my feet with her yellow hair.
       O actual event dead quotient
       cross become green
I still love Jubal but pity Hagar.
       (Now self is the first sacrament
       who loves not the misery and taint
       of the present tense is lost.
       I strain for a lunar arrogance.
             Light macerates
             the lamp infects
       warmth, more warmth, I cry.)

He is young. The father is dead.
Outside, a cold November night,
the mourners' cars are parked upon the lawn;
beneath the porch light three
brothers talk to three sons
and shiver without knowing it.
His mind's all black thickets
and blood; he knows
flesh slips quietly oft the bone,
he knows no last looks,
that among the profusion of flowers
the lid is closed to hide
what no one could bear --
that metal rends the flesh,
he knows beneath the white-pointed
creatures, stars,
that in the distant talk of brothers,
the father is dead.

Hear this touch: grass parts
for the snake,
in furrows
soil curves around itself,
a rock topples into a lake,
roused organs,
fur against cloth,
arms unfold,
at the edge of a clearing
fire selects new wood.

I've known her too long:
we devour as two mirrors,
swallow each other a thousand
times at midpoints,
lost in the black center
of the other.
She sits on the bed,
breasts slack,
watching a curl of dust
float through a ray of sun,
drift down to a corner.
So brief this meeting
with a strange child --
Do I want to be remembered?
Only as a mare might know
the body of her rider,
the pressure of legs
unlike any other.
The girl who was once my mistress
is dead now, I learn, in childbirth.
I thought that long ago women ceased
dying this way.
To set records straight, our enmity
relaxes, I wrote a verse for her --
to dole her by pieces, ring finger
and lock of hair.
But I'm a poor Midas to turn her golden,
to make a Helen, grand whore, of this graceless
girl; the sparrow that died was only
a sparrow:
Though in the dark, she doesn't sleep.
On cushions, embraced by silk, no lover
comes to her. In the first light when birds
stir she does not stir or sing. Oh eyes can't
focus to this dark

On this back road the land
has the juice taken out of it:
stump fences surround nothing
worth their tearing down
by a deserted filling station
a Veedol sign, the rusted hulk
of a Frazer, "live bait"
on battered tin.
                A barn
with half a tobacco ad
owns the greenness of a manure
a half-moon on a privy door
a rope swinging from an elm. A
collapsed henhouse, a pump
with the handle up
the orchard with wild tangled branches.
             * * *
In the far corner of the pasture,
in the shadow of the woodlot
a herd of twenty deer:
three bucks
are showing off --
they jump in turn across the fence,
flanks arch and twist to get higher
in the twilight
as the last light filters
through the woods.

Returning at night
there's a catalpa moth
in the barberry
on the table the flowers
left alone turned black
in the root cellar
the potato sprouts
creeping through the door
glisten white and tubular
in the third phase
of the moon.

This other speaks of bones, blood-wet
and limber, the rock in bodies. He takes
me to the slaughterhouse, where lying
sprawled, as a giant coil of rope,
the bowels of cattle. At the county fair
we pay an extra quarter to see the hermaphrodite.
We watch the secret air tube
blow up the skirts of the farm girls,
tanned to the knees then strangely white.
We eat spareribs and pickled eggs,
the horses tear the ground to pull a load
of stone; in a burning tent we see
Fantasia do her Love Dance with the
Spaniard -- they glisten with sweat, their
limbs knot together while below them farm
boys twitter like birds. Then the breasts
of a huge Negress rotate to a march in
opposing directions, and everyone stamps
and cheers, the udders shine in blurring
speed. Out of the tent we pass produce
stalls, some hung with ribbons, squash
and potatoes stacked in pyramids. A buck-toothed
girl cuts her honorable-mention
cake; when she leans to get me water
from a milk pail her breasts are chaste.
Through the evening I sit in the car (the
other is gone) while my father watches
the harness race, the 4-H talent show.
I think of St. Paul's Epistles and pray
the removal of what my troubled eyes have seen.

The mirror tastes him
breath clouds
hands pressed against glass
in yellow morning light
a jay
flutters in unaccustomed
from bush to limb of elm
a cow at breakfast
her jaws lax in momentary stillness
far off a milk truck
on the section road
light low mist
over the buckwheat
through the orchard
the neighbor's dogs bark
then four roosters announce

Great-uncle Wilhelm, Mennonite, patriarch,
eater of blood sausage, leeks,
headcheese, salt pork,
you are led into church
by that wisp you plundered for nine children.
Your brain has sugared now,
your white beard is limp,
you talk of acres of corn
where there is only snow.
Your sister, a witch, old as a stump,
says you are punished now for the unspeakable
sin that barred you from the table for seven years.
They feed you cake to hasten your death.
Your land is divided.
Curse them but don't die.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 13, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    This man does not need your money as much as you need his words. This
    offers small slices of the long history of his work. If all you know of him is a movie you saw on TV you are shortchanging your intellect.
    I enjoyed twisting myself into a shape that allowed me a few meager
    sights and steps along the pathways he has given us.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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