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Essay Reviews All Things Touched By Wind. ByJohn Daniel. (Anchorage and San Francisco: Salmon Run Press, 1994. 61 pages, $9.95.) In the beginning is “The Meal,”waiting for the word. Until it is spoken at the table, in the imagined presence offather, grandfather, and “more beyond him”that the poet almost knows, the meal cannot begin. And so beginsJohn Daniel’s wonderfully nourishing book All Things Touched By Wind, a book in which the poet’s impulse toward responsible speech, toward evoking and naming some of life’s deepest mysteries, emerges over and over in poems that are themselves various ways of saying grace, with love and reverence, and with the knowledge thatultimately, “the last and truestofall these words/ is the one that won’t be said.” For this is a deeply spiritual book, a celebration of the natural world, of ways not human, of “What Lives Outside Our Lives” yet finds us “Here,” wherever we are. Masterfully crafted and cohesive, its three main sections are distinctyetinterwoven in image and theme, much as ripples in waterwill cross each otherwhen their centering stones have been tossed together, by the same hand. In deft, many-layered poems, the poet involves us in various migrations, like “The European Birch,”“Half the world/ from the birthplace of its kind,” in search of a place to plant seeds and roots. If we were like whales, Daniel suggests, there might be a path to “gather us/ and lead us around and through the turning of seasons and back/ to ourselves, again and again,/ looping our one life through the lengths of Earth’s time.” And still, by learning to see how one clear drop of rain can be a “cosmos/ glowing from within . . . held in wholeness/ by the sheer/ tension of its forming,” and by learning to let go of our human, “echoing talk”; by learn­ ing—in settings ranging from the Death Valley canyons, from Oregon’s oldgrowth forests, to auniversityoffice desk—to listen to what the birds, the rivers, the wind and the stars have to sing—Daniel finds his place in the natural order of things. One of my favorite poems, “A Suggestion to Myselffor Dark Times,” begins Late in the night when no direction I walk leads out of sadness, when my own life feels lost to me, and everything I’ve done 96 WesternAmerican Literature seems wrong or not enough, what can I lose if I abandon the lights I’ve been living by and travel to a place where the land lies flat and clear, where the luminous MilkyWay spreads specked and glittering across the sky and progresses through a burst of cosmic imagery—an explosive, almost breathless re-vision of Creation, from big bang through “the mouth that first sucked air”—in which the poet sees himself and leads us to these concluding lines: mine were the feet that found their way, that carried my sifting and sifting self, the carefully listening ears were mine, the eyes gazing across the land, and up at the far-strewn brilliance of night— my own forgotten face shines there, and where in this bright heaven could I be lost? For all their expressions ofjoy, however, these poems never come close to the traps of simplicity, or of the sentimental. Fully aware of the darkness around us, of the “Unseen” from which all of us come and to which we all return, Daniel recalls (in the book’s final section), his childhood awareness of death’s inevitability, of the presence of spirit in the dying breath of a snake, of “the beautiful indifference of this world.”This is a poet who has always known loss. And yet, in the poem “Opal Creek,”having climbed to sit on old-growth, fallen, he is able to speak of “death’sgenerous body,/ and all around uswhere the stillness sings/ we see the green abundance of death’s rising.” In “To MyMother,”a poem which brought me, quite unexpected, to tears, the poet anticipates his mother’s death—anticipating, also, the ways she will always be with him: But when the tall pines stirwith a rising wind, when the river whispers past my camp, when breakers...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 95-97
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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