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b o o k R e v ie w s 3 5 9 Wild Song: Poems of the Natural World. Edited by John Daniel. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998. 129 pages, $14.95. Reviewed by Robert Scott American University, Washington, D.C. Wild Song, edited by Oregonian John Daniel, collects eighty-three poems— most that were first published in Wilderness magazine. It makes room side by side for well-known writers such as John Haines, Greg Pape, and Naomi Shihab Nye, along with the as-yet-little-heard-of poets. It brings us the work of poets sadly no longer with us: William Stafford and Denise Levertov. If poetry was a popular addition to the magazine, then this anthology should rightfully gain an even larger audience. You will find many different landscapes packed into these pages, from all corners of the continent. And many plants and animals. But seldom too many humans—usually just the inquisitive poet, out on a solitary journey, or hiking with a few friends or family. The wild place might be the writer’s backyard, a river in Utah, or the San Rafael Mountains. The plant might be a cultivated artichoke or the wild fern. The “animal” might be a growly yellow jacket or the peripatetic pileated woodpecker; it might even be the human self discovered in splendid isolation. These wild songs call readers into the worlds of their creators, then take them out to the natural scenes that occasioned them. In many ways, Wild Song reads as an alternative field guide. Perhaps it offers the human desire, not so much to name or identify things, but to experience them afresh in their own raw surroundings— to be transformed by what we see and feel. If so, you will be equally comfortable reading this volume at the kitchen table or while tucked in a sleeping bag reading by flashlight out on the trail. Thematic anthologies can suffer from too much sameness. Wild Song is no different. The steady drumbeat of poems that queue off of nature’s “silence,” or the ones that borrow too much from Frost, can try a reader’s patience. What might seem fresh and wild when printed alone can become a bit tame when herded and compressed with others into a single volume. But both Daniel and the University of Georgia Press do an elegant job of overcoming this liability, dividing the poems into five sections, replete with handsome illustrations. Wisely, the stronger poets often serve to anchor several of the sections—with Mary Oliver rightfully having the last words: “in this world / I am as rich as I need to be” (115). The pleasure of any anthology is that every reader gets to compile a list of favorites. I single out Wendell Berry for “The Best Reward”: “. . . wild is anything / Beyond the reach of purpose not its own” (8). Arthur McLean, with his delightfully cacophonous “Parliament of Fowls on Dog River,” also merits praise, as do Jane Hirchfield, Maxine Kumin, and Pattiann Rogers. I especially enjoyed Alison Hawthorne Deming’s “The Sanctuary” and was 3 6 0 WAL 3 4 .3 FALL 1999 happy to chance upon her book The Edges of the Civilized World, which in part uses her Monarch poem sequence to explore nature through the worlds of science and art. That’s what good anthologies do. They bring us the world— then send us out into other books. Qreen Alaska: Dreams from the Far Coast. By Nancy Lord. W ashington, D .C .: C oun terpoint, 1999. 170 pages, $22.00. Reviewed by Eric Heyne University of Alaska Fairbanks In 1899 one of the richest men in America was ordered by his doctor to take a vacation. Edward Harriman decided to turn that vacation into a quasi-scientific expedition up the coast of Alaska, and he invited along some thirty scientists, artists, and engineers, including John Burroughs, John Muir, George Bird Grinnell, Edward Curtis, and William Dali. Almost one hundred years later Nancy Lord retraced a portion of that trip, from Homer on the Kenai Peninsula out to where the Alaska Peninsula fragments into the Aleutian Islands. As she traveled along the rugged, empty coast in a fish...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 359-360
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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