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In Memory of a Banyan Tree: Poems of the Outside World: 1985 to 2022
Three Wooden Trunks
The Country Where Everyone’s Name Is Fear: Selected Poems
Old & Lost Rivers  
  J.T. Ledbetter

ISBN 978-0-9839975-0-4     $16.95  /  $18.95 (Canada)     5.5 x 8.5       

76 pp      
PUB DATE: Spring 2012       Poetry


There is a certain quietness in J.T. Ledbetter’s Old and Lost Rivers. Each poem is a lull, a seductive silence, that follows the rhythms of the flowing hills of the Palouse and the rolling rivers which usher the relaxed reader along on a journey that is clear and definite and concise. The strength of Ledbetter’s poems is in that dreamlike, pastoral, almost hypnotic rhythm of each poem coupled with a pertinent, subtle re-call to consciousness in every ending. One could easily get lost in these poems, and one would definitely be better for it.

—Raymond Hammond, editor of New York Quarterly

J.T. Ledbetter’s Old & Lost Rivers is a brilliant book, full of the delight of an abundant life well-lived. Ledbetter has the rare gift of being able to transform explicit memory into archetype, to spin out the narrative of his remembrance so that it evokes ours. Nature is everywhere with sudden, unexpected, aching beauty and restorative harshness, and the farm also with its woods and streams, cows moving in their stanchions, and long, silent distances between house and barn and between house and town. But always Ledbetter’s focus is people, on who they are to each other and to themselves, on people touching each other or losing and sometimes finding again that ability to touch. Readers of Old & Lost Rivers (real rivers and those of time, memory, and experience) learn again how precious, fragile, tough, and beautiful life is.

—Gordon Cheesewright, Ph.D, Professor of English, Ft. Lewis College

About the Author

J.T. Ledbetter

J.T. Ledbetter holds a B.A. in English from California State University Long Beach, M.A. and Ph.D in English from the University of Nebraska where he studied under Karl Shapiro, and the critic Lee Lemon. Dr. Ledbetter is currently Professor Emeritus at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California. J.T. Ledbetter’s poems can be found in literary journals, including Poetry, The Sewanee Review, The New York Quarterly, Laurel Review, Louisville Review, Nimrod, Cimarron Review, Atlanta Review, The Formalist, Tar River Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and many others. His poems have been anthologized in New American Poetry (McGraw-Hill, 1973); Men And Women: Together and Apart (The Spirit That Moves Us Press, 1990); Gridlock (Applezaba Press, 1990); Seriously Meeting Shapiro (Negative Capability Press, 1993); Only Morning In Her Shoes (Utah State University Press, 1990). Underlying Premises, a collection of poems, was published by Lewis Clark Press in September 2010.


Winner of the 2011 Idaho Prize for Poetry, selected by Ray Amorosi

Beauty is Always a Surprise

The video was supposed to be Beautiful Kansas,
but turned out to be “The Volvulus Colon”
with diagrams of innards with names
I associated with islands or the middle names
of Presidents. No cows looking over a fence,
small tractors in their eyes, or peonies hanging
in their strings beside a ruined porch.

I can only hope the person planning an operation
takes some comfort in fields of black-eyed susans
on winds blowing up from Texas, with maybe
old photos of a thin woman standing in the yard,
watching a tornado forming over Missouri as I watch
bloody hands lift and set aside coiled tubes to show
the camera the tangled bit that must come out.
Beauty is always a surprise.

A woman’s name is on the package with my address—so
I won’t send the video back until I get my Kansas,
or a phone call asking if the woman standing on
the porch is my wife, and I’ll ask if she’s ever seen
Kansas in May. It may take awhile. I’ll watch the mails
while she waits for the phone to ring, not wanting to
presume, or say how it is alone as the leaves fall.

© by J.T. Ledbetter 2011