No one who grows up completely can be a poet, and no one born middle-aged can write poetry successfully, but a man (or woman) can do it with one eye, as long as the heart remains childlike with wonder.
I never have enough of Jim Harrison’s poems, and the wait from one book of his poetry to the next always feels much too long, but the most recent stretch of waiting is over at last, rewarded with In Search of Small Gods, and I am deeply moved by the simple, unpretentious language of these poems and the power that such simplicity affords. Like a shot to the heart, each one hits its mark. After reading only one or two I must close the book, breathe deeply and quietly, and give myself time to recover before going on.
The poem below may or may not be “representative” of the collection, but except for this one I will leave the delight of discovery to those who will take the book in their hands. That this book exists fills me with gratitude.
Sour milk. Rotten Eggs. Bumblebees.
Giant women. Falling through the privy hole.
The snake under the dock that bit my foot.
Snapping turtles. Electric fences. Howling bears.
The neighbor’s big dog that tore apart
the black lamb. Oil wells. Train wheels.
Dentists and doctors. Hitler and Tojo. Eye pain.
School superintendent with three gold teeth.
Cow’s infected udder, angry draft horse.
School fire. Snake under hay bale. Life’s end.
That your dead dogs won’t meet you in heaven.