Reflecting Daniel’s deep affinity for the land and lives of the given world, Of Earth offers poems of praise that do not deny suffering and death but find them essential to the vast, intricate and mysterious territory of being. “Nature,” he writes in his introduction, “means having been born—microbes, humans, the entire cosmos itself, with all the living, dying, love, loss, joy, horror, beauty, and questions about ends and beginnings that the cosmos has so far evolved. Like all true literature, nature poetry belongs to the ongoing conversation the human community is conducting through time about who we are and where we have come from, about where we are and who our kinfolk are, about how we live and how we might live, about how our lives should matter.”
John Daniel’s poems are indelible, essential, endearing, and exquisitely shaped. This rich and precious earth, so often trampled and forsaken, must be somehow touched and restored by such attentive consideration. We are much richer readers, who live with these generous poems and this great poet’s spirit.
—Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Transfer and Fuel
What is the poet’s work? “Listening to what lives outside our lives,” John Daniel answers. And on this book’s pages, he offers the results of a remarkable attention. Daniel’s poems are psalms born of stillness. They are praise-songs born of both awe and a steely insistence on clear, spare depiction of the “mystery of the given world.” Vivid glimpses into his process of truth-seeking, his poems spring from a secular yet numinous reverence.
—Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate, author of The Voluptuary
John Daniel presents poems of testimony to the glories and mysteries of the natural world. In a steady voice filled with wonder and gratitude, he examines thunder: storms, the Milky Way, a screech owl’s eyes, thimbleberries, a dying snake. Daniel’s poems are honest, compassionate, genuinely wrought and generous in their gifts.
—Pattiann Rogers, author of Wayfare and The Grand Array
When a young Ojibway went into the woods for an initiatory vision, singing, “Whenever I pause, / The noise of the village,” he was seeking a vein running between solitude and society. Thoreau sought the same vein, and it is the realm of John Daniel’s Of Earth. These poems are nature poems, but we might as well call them social poems or, to use Yeats’ word, companionable. If you want to share the joys of being alive on this perishing earth, this book is for you.
—Kenneth Fields, author of Classic Rough News
About the Author
FOR THE FIRE
In cold morning sun
I raise my maul, aim
for the calm pooled rings
of a round of pine.
Two halves spring from the block,
on glaring snow. Drunk
with the dangerous musk of pitch
I swing with all the hard love
I know, slick with sweat,
grunting with the drive
of the eight-pound steel.
The split pieces settle
heavy in my arms
as I walk to the shed, dry lips
on bare pine flesh. Rough
and gentle as any father,
I stack them to sleep
for that ice-still morning
I will come to them, lonely,
asking for their warmth and song.