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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.
Known for his fiction (Legends of the Fall; The Road Home; Wolf) and for his essays (Just Before Dark), Harrison has also been a prolific, ambitious poet. This expansive "new & collected" volume restores to print all his verse, from the lyrics and protest-poems of Plainsong (1965), through the effusive Letters to Yesenin (1973), the Zen-inspired After Ikkyu (1996), and the new miscellany of nature-verse and prose-poems Harrison calls "Geo-Bestiary." Harrison's works share a self-confident ease, a desire for simple lyricism and an unbuttoned, slouching, at-home feel; he conceives of poems as hikes, rambles, tours of his mind and his lands: "walking to Savage's Lake where I ate my bread/ and cheese, drank cool lake water and slept for a while." (The landscapes are often those of Northern Michigan, where Harrison lives.) In a sheaf of ghazals from 1971, Harrison's lyricism turns brilliantly campy, with distichs leaping and leaping like cats: "Yes yes yes it was the year of the tall ships/ and the sea owned more and larger fish." Later poems, reminiscent by turns of Gary Snyder, Robert Bly and Raymond Carver, specialize in diaristic noticing‘of trees, of drinking, of sex ("She offers a flex of butt, belly button, breasts")‘or else in quotable wisdom: "Even our hearts don't beat/ the way we want them to." But even these retain saving moments of flannel-clad, pine-forest camp: "I have to kill the rooster tomorrow. He's being an asshole,/ having seriously wounded one of our two hens with his insistent banging." (Nov.)