Starred Review in Booklist: “[C]hoices of poems from each of Harrison’s books are passionate and sharp… Of special note is a section from Letters to Yesenin, a book-length poem, and the title poem from The Theory and Practice of Rivers , which contains these echoing lines, 'I forgot where I heard that poems / are designed to waken sleeping gods.' Reading this essential volume, one might imagine that the gods are, indeed, staying up late, reading lights on, turning the pages.”
Jim Harrison: The Essential Poems is distilled from fourteen volumes--from visionary lyrics and meditative suites to shape-shifting ghazals and prose-poem letters. Teeming throughout these pages are Harrison’s legendary passions and appetites, his meditations, rages, and love-songs to the natural world. The New York Times concluded a review from early in Harrison’s career with a provocative quote: “This is poetry worth loving, hating, and fighting over, a subjective mirror of our American days and needs.” That sentiment still holds true, as Jim Harrison’s essential poems continue to call for our fiercest attention.
"In this unforgiving literary moment, we must deal honestly with [Harrison's] life and work, as they are inextricable in a way that is not true of other poets...These poems bear-crawl gorgeously after a genuine connection to being, thrashing in giant leaps through the underbrush to find consolation, purpose, and redemption. In his raw, original keening he ambushes moments of unimaginable beauty, one after another, line after line...The Essential Poems demonstrates perfectly why we should turn to Harrison again. He lived and breathed an American confrontation with the physical earth, married himself to a universe of bodies and stumps and birds, did not try to shuck his grotesque masculinity and stared hard with his one good eye (the left was blinded when he was seven) at the inescapable, beckoning finger of death." --Dean Kuipers, LitHub
"It is hard-boiled poetry, some of the best of its kind, and one is not surprised to know that Harrison has written very tough novels... His poetic vision is at the heart of it all."Harper's
"Jim Harrison's latest collection, The Essential Poems, contains...engaging and enlightening poems [that] should be taught, learned, and loved. Remember this."New York Journal of Books
|Publisher:||Copper Canyon Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
and served as the food columnist for the magazines Brick and Esquire. He published fourteen volumes of poetry, the final being Dead Man's Float (2016). His work has been translated into two dozen languages and produced as four feature-length films. As a young poet he co-edited Sumac magazine, with fellow poet Dan Gerber, and earned a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2007, he was elected into the Academy of American Arts and Letters. Regarding his most beloved art-form, he wrote: "Poetry, at its best, is the language your soul would speak if you could teach your soul to speak." Jim Harrison certainly spoke the language.
Read an Excerpt
I wanted to feel exalted so I picked up
Dr. Zhivago again. But the newspaper was there with the horrors of the Olympics, those dead and perpetually martyred sons of David. I want to present all Israelis with .357 magnums so that they are never to be martyred again. I wanted to be exalted so I picked up Dr. Zhivago again but the tv was on with a movie about the sufferings of convicts in the early history of Australia. But then the movie was over and the level of the bourbon bottle was dropping and I still wanted to be exalted lying there with the book on my chest. I recalled Moscow but I could not place dear Yuri, only you Yesenin, seeing the Kremlin glitter and ripple like Asia. And when drunk you appeared as some Bakst stage drawing, a slain Tartar. But that is all ballet.And what a dance you had kicking your legs from the rope – We all change our minds, Berryman said in Minnesota halfway down the river.Villon said of the rope that my neck will feel the weight of my ass. But I wanted to feel exalted again and read the poems at the end of Dr. Zhivago and just barely made it. Suicide. Beauty takes my courage away this cold autumn evening. My year-old daughter’s red robe hangs from the doorknob shouting Stop.
Most of my life was spent building a bridge out over the sea though the sea was too wide.
I’m proud of the bridge hanging in the pure sea air. Machado came for a visit and we sat on the end of the bridge, which was his idea.
Now that I’m old the work goes slowly.
Ever nearer death, I like it out here high above the sea bundled up for the arctic storms of late fall,
the resounding crash and moan of the sea,
the hundred-foot depth of the green troughs.
Sometimes the sea roars and howls like the animal it is, a continent wide and alive.
What beauty in this the darkest music over which you can hear the lightest music of human behavior, the tender connection between men and galaxies.
So I sit on the edge, wagging my feet above the abyss. Tonight the moon will be in my lap.
This is my job, to study the universe from my bridge. I have the sky, the sea, the faint green streak of Canadian forest on the far shore.
To remember that you’re alive visit the cemetery of your father at noon after you’ve made love and are still wrapped in a mammalian odor that you are forced to cherish.
Under each stone is someone’s inevitable surprise, the unexpected death of their biology that struggled hard as it must.
Now go home without looking back at the fading cemetery, enough is enough,
but stop on the way to buy the best wine you can afford and a dozen stiff brooms.
Have a few swallows then throw the furniture out the window and then begin sweeping.
Sweep until you’ve swept the walls bare of paint and at your feet sweep the floor until it disappears. Finish the wine in this field of air, go back to the cemetery in the dark and weave through the stones a slow dance of your name visible only to birds.
Table of ContentsPlain Song (1965)
Sketch for a Job-Application Blank
Fair/Boy Christian Takes a Break
Suite to Fathers
Outlyer & Ghazals (1971)
Letters to Yesenin (1973)
Returning to Earth (1977)
Returning to Earth
Selected & New Poems (1982)
The Theory and Practice of Rivers & New Poems (1989)
The Theory and Practice of Rivers
The Brand New Statue of Liberty
My Friend the Bear
After Ikkyu & Other Poems (1996)
After Ikkyu 1
After Ikkyu 6
After Ikkyu 11
After Ikkyu 12
After Ikkyu 13
After Ikkyu 14
After Ikkyu 15
After Ikkyu 18
After Ikkyu 24
After Ikkyu 29
After Ikkyu 37
After Ikkyu 39
After Ikkyu 40
After Ikkyu 50
After Ikkyu 57
The Davenport Lunar Eclipse
Return to Yesenin
Shape of the Journey: New & Collected Poems
Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry (2003)
Saving Daylight (2007)
Mom and Dad
Adding It Up
103 Poem of War (i)
Fence Line Tree
In Search of Small Gods (2009)
Larson’s Holstein Bull
Eleven Dawns with Su Tung-p’o
Songs of Unreason (2011)
Dead Man's Float (2016)
Seven in the Woods
A Variation on Machado