Forthcoming in September 2012, poems by Oregon poet, John Daniel: Of Earth
John Daniel’s new book of poetry, his first in eighteen years, contains roughly half the poems from each of his two previous collections, Common Ground and All Things Touched by Wind, and a generous selection of newer work. Old or recent, most of these seventy poems were inspired by the landscapes where Daniel has lived or spent lengths of time over the last forty years. Many came to him from the sagebrush and ponderosa pine country of south-central Oregon, where he became a writer and still spends parts of every year. Others arose from the oak-strewn hills of the San Francisco Peninsula above Stanford University, where Daniel was a Wallace Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer in Poetry in the 1980s; from the Rogue River Canyon of southwestern Oregon, the country he wrote about in Rogue River Journal; from the inland foothills of the Oregon Coast Range west of Eugene, where he has lived since 1994; and from hikes and visits here and there across the greater American West.
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.”
The findings of science inform this work, as do American Indian literatures, Buddhism and Christianity, the American Transcendentalists, and a lineage of poets that includes Walt Whitman, Robinson Jeffers, Theodore Roethke, Kenneth Rexroth, William Stafford, and Denise Levertov. “I am a spiritual and scientific generalist,” Daniel writes, “intolerant only of fundamentalism in either realm. These poems are products of a kind of nearsighted groping toward forms of truth that can be realized, if at all, only in the process of seeking them. One name for this seeking is imagination, which is not a way of making things unreal but of trying to understand their reality by calling it forth in language. My intent is that each poem should embody its portion of truth in ways accessible to the general reader. I am not interested in making clever puzzles or clouds of vague significance. My aim is to attend to the living world and make true reports.”