Jim Harrison: Poet
By Doug Hare EBS Staff
Jim Harrison was a screenplay writer, a novelist, a master of the often-neglected novella form, and a talented essayist. While he might be best known for his collection of novellas “Legends of the Fall,” he considered himself first and foremost to be a poet.
January 2016 saw the publication of “Dead Man’s Float,” his 14th collection of verse. Harrison once said that a poet always needs to be ready for the bread that comes fresh from the oven. While he felt he could put off a novel, poems came to him in moments of revelation.
Below are three short poems reprinted with permission of Copper Canyon Press.
I love these raw moist dawns with
a thousand birds you hear but can’t
quite see in the mist.
My old alien body is a foreigner
struggling to get into another country.
The loon call makes me shiver.
Back at the cabin I see a book
and am not quite sure what it is
Harrison used to say that the best poetry was what your soul would say if you could teach your soul to talk. His poetry is introspective, elemental, jolting and raw. Even when talking about the ravages of time, the ailments of old age, or the inevitability of death, he has the ability to convey the sacredness of wonder and awe.
This year we have two gorgeous
yellow warblers nesting in the honeysuckle bush.
The other day I stuck my head in the bush.
The nestlings weigh one-twentieth of an ounce,
about the size of a honeybee. We stared at
each other, startled by our existence.
In a month or so, when they reach the size
of bumblebees they’ll fly to Costa Rica without a map.
Where is Jim Harrison?
He fell off the cliff of a seven-inch zafu.
He couldn’t get up because of his surgery.
He believes in the Resurrection mostly
because he was never taught how not to.
Doug Hare is the Distribution Coordinator for Outlaw Partners. He studied philosophy and American literature at Princeton and Harvard universities.